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Saturday, June 24, 2017

The sounds of Saturday morning

Beth has done a beautiful job coloring the red sea.
We love weekends on Project Canaan. The farm is quiet as only the children’s campus staff is at work.  Saturday starts the same as every other weekday for the Maxwell’s, sitting in bed with a cup of coffee overlooking Project Canaan.  Ian and I have our time of quiet prayer, devotion and scripture reading and then we move along with the day.

Saturday’s are extra special because at 9AM the beautiful sound of tiny voices begins to float up the mountaintop, notifying us that KIDS CLUB has begun.

KIDS CLUB was designed for the children who live at the Emseni Campus (our big kids) and any other children living on the farm who are in preschool or above.  The children are divided in to groups and move through five stations, shifting every 15-minutes.  It’s a fun-filled morning that includes a craft (two different ones dependent on age groups), singing/dancing, a race or physical activity, bible story, bible verse memory time.


The idea of this is to teach the children the bible story that will be presented at church the following morning, and help them understand what the story is about.  By acting out part of the story, making a craft with the story theme, hearing the story read, memorizing the bible verse and then dancing and singing about it, children’s church on Sunday becomes much more interesting and engaging to the children.



This was the brainchild of our volunteer Program Director, Bryan Throgmorton, but is fully executed with the entire Emseni staff, with support from our long term and short-term volunteers.  The 75-minute club ends with a fun snack and is followed by free play.


I LOVE the people whom I refer to as our “CARE TEAM”.  The Care Team comprises of anyone who is directly involved in caring for our children and includes Aunties, Uncles, Gogo’s and big brothers.  Ian and I are “mom and dad”.  In siSwati we are called Make (pronounced Mah – gay, which means mother) and Babe (pronounced Bah-bay, which means father). 

We are thankful for our Heart for Africa summer interns!
Our goal is to intentionally make this our children’s HOME, and not an orphanage.  Part of that intentionality is being focused on each child developing their own personality, individuality and identity. KIDS CLUB is one of those activities that helps allow our children to express themselves in different ways, and I spend my Saturday mornings watching, listening and laughing as they bloom in front of my eyes.

I am so proud of the people who God has brought to us to help raise these children and for all of you who support us financially and prayerfully.

Live from Swaziland … I love Saturdays on Project Canaan.

Janine

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This week’s health issues and surgeries



It’s hard to explain life on a farm in Africa, let alone life with 159 children under the age of seven.  There are so many moving parts, so many facets, and so many complex elements involved in raising these children, that even people who come and stay for an extended period are still learning many months after their arrival.

Today I want to share four specific medial issues that we navigated through this week (among many other day-to-day issues including HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, two sets of head stitches and common childhood illnesses).  I will only use the first letter of each child’s name, in order to protect their privacy.

1.     “B” came to us severely malnourished and we noticed an abnormality in his index finger.  We surmise that his finger was broken as a small baby and it never healed properly.  There is a piece of bone in the top part of his finger and a piece of bone in the bottom, but nothing in between, so the bone on the top is not growing.  The surgeon was very concerned about it because without reconstructive surgery, his finger would need to be amputated in the future. This week he went in for surgery, where they removed some bone from his leg and used it to attach the bones in his finger together.  The surgery was more complicated than expected and we are still awaiting a report from the surgeon. Sadly, the patient/parent/doctor communication system here is not always ideal.
2.     (Age appropriate reading on this one) “S” arrived severely malnourished and abused.  We quickly noticed that he was missing his testicles and took him to a specialist, who was unable to locate them.  He is almost 2-years-old.   We were able to get him in for a Bilateral Orchidopexy (here in Swaziland) and while in surgery they discovered another problem in that area, which required him to be circumcised.  The surgery went well and he is home with us, healing nicely.
3.     “L” is 4-years-old and in good health, but has a reoccurring infection up near her ear that ends up bursting with pus oozing out. We are told that it is an “extra sinus cavity” that continues to get infected and will require surgery. This week our Doctor was on the property and was able to lance it (YUCK!!!).  Now our goal is to get her infection free so that we can proceed with the surgery. 


4.     “M” is our most disable child. He was born to a 14-year-old girl and then left in a rural clinic for many months. After a few days of him being us we realized that something was very wrong.  He is 10-months old and has seriously neurological challenges, and doesn’t swallow properly. We suspect this is due to Cerebral Palsy, but until he gets older, and hits (or misses) developmental milestones we will not be able to properly diagnose.

To quote the movie Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”.


I feel that way about our children. Each baby who comes to us is a new gift, full of surprises, sadness and joy all in one sweet little package. 

Thank you to everyone has given to our Emergency Medical Fund in the past. I will say that the account is now empty, but we know that the Lord will provide again before our next medical need. If you want to give to our Emergency Medical Fund in the US click here.  For donations in Canada, please click here.

Thanks for taking the time to read about all that is happening at Project Canaan each week. I am grateful for your support, fellowship and love.

Live from Swaziland … preparing to host friends from three countries for dinner!

Janine

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Is raising children "women's work"?



Sharing with Dad is important
Next Sunday is Father’s Day and as Ian is father to Spencer and Chloe and also 158 little Swazi children, Father’s Day has become a greater time of reflection for me each year.

I was raised by a wonderful man (Russell Willis) who adopted me (with my mom Bernice) when I was just a baby.  He raised me as his own and provided me with food, shelter, education, opportunity, discipline and love.

I often hear comments about the children at Project Canaan not being raised in a “normal” home with a “real mom and dad”, and how they will suffer because of that.   I find it shocking each and every time because what is “normal” nowadays?  How many people in Canada or the US are being raised by their biological mother and father?  And even when children are raised in a “normal” home, that doesn’t mean the home is healthy or happy. 

I was reading a blog article by Dr. Gail Gross she said, “ Only 20 percent of American households consist of married couples with children. Filling the gap are family structures of all kinds.” 

In 2011 a stat said that 72% of all Swazi children do not have a father in their lives.  I can’t imagine what the current statistic is. 

As many of you know, our eldest children at Project Canaan are 6-year-old twins, Rose and Gabriel.  Each day we are learning and growing as our children grow. Raising 158 is very different than raising two (or six).   Our focus when the children are small babies is primarily health, nutrition and love.  As they get older their emotional, mental and spiritual development becomes more important. 


On thing that remains the same is that we strive to be intentional in everything we do.  We are now reviewing parenting courses that can help us with not only training our staff in how we want our children to be parented, but also forcing us to make parenting decisions all over again!  What is important in THIS culture that may not have been important in Canada in the 1990’s?  What was important to us as we raised Spencer and Chloe that is irrelevant in Swazi culture?  And how do we have fun with our children and our caregivers?

Tickle fights with Dad are important!
My point of today’s blog is that no two families are the same. We all parent differently.  We are all doing the best we can with what we have and what we know.  Our family looks very different than any other around the world, but we are doing the best we can, with what we have and what we know, to raise God-loving, God-fearing children who will contribute to society and change the face of a nation.  God is our heavenly Father and He is the perfect father who never ever lets us down, and we are secure in that knowledge.

I am so grateful for Ian who is a wonderful father to Spencer and Chloe and being intentional to be a Godly role model for our other 158+.  I am grateful for the Swazi men who God has brought to us to be big brothers and uncles to be positive role models for our children.  And I am grateful for our male volunteers (single and married) who are investing in the lives of our children and showing them what Godly men look like.

Having fun with Dad is important.
Raising children is NOT woman’s work. It takes a village to raise a child, and a village requires men and women to be strong and courageous together, whether they have been blessed with one child or a village of children.  Raising children is not for sissies either, it is hard work, all the time, so let us encourage one other, and build each other up, not tear each other down.

One more thing – we have added some educational tools and materials to our Amazon Baby registry. Feel free to shop for books, textbooks, teaching aids and, of course diapers and wipes.  US shoppers click here.  We are no longer accepting items for the Canadian container as it ships next week.  Canadian shoppers will need to access the US site please.   THANK YOU!

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the men in my life.

Janine

Saturday, June 3, 2017

What is a "mushroom daycare"? You might not want to know.


You likely haven’t heard of a “mushroom daycare” before.  I had not heard the term until a year ago when we picked up a baby (Margie) from one such “center”.   The reason it is called a “mushroom daycare” is because there are many (literally dozens) of children being cared for in a small, one room building in the dark with no exposure to sunshine, daylight, proper food, stimulation or love.  These children are growing like mushrooms, in the dark.

Please take a moment before reading on to stop and picture that in your mind.

Here is what is happening.  Young woman are getting pregnant often through false promises of love/marriage/free KFC/money and/or and then there is incest and rape.  The “middle age” generation has been wiped out by HIV/AIDS/TB and there is no one to care for the young children back at home (which is typically what happened in the past). The young mothers need to find work so they leave their children with a local “daycare” person, which means an unofficial caregiver takes the children in to her home for a month at a time and the mother should arrive with money at the end of the month when they are paid.

Sometimes the young mother just runs away and never returns, leaving more mouths to feed with less money. But how does the caregiver find the mother?  Sometimes the mothers come and pay the daycare lady a small amount of money and then go back to work, leaving the children living in the dark.

The result is an uncountable number of children living like mushrooms around the country.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for writing this, as it is a well-known problem to the police, hospitals and social welfare, with action being taken, but it’s a huge challenge, in a country with lots of other challenges.  No one wants the children being left at home alone, so what other alternative is there?  I believe this is a direct result of a missing generation.

Yesterday we welcomed a baby whom we call Wendy.  She started off life in a bad way, arriving three months early in her mother’s mud hut, weighing only 3.2 pounds.  But she lived.  Her young mother had no family to help care for the baby (and her other two children) so she sent the 4 and 7-year old to other homes and then took Baby Wendy to a local “daycare”.    The baby got very little food, nutrition, care or love.  She started to stop growing and was always sickly. 

15-month-old baby weighing 6.6 pounds
When Baby Wendy was 15-months-old (this past April) the mother took the child to a government hospital that has a wonderful pediatrician and nutritionist who specialize in malnutrition.   At that age, Wendy weighed only 6.6 pounds.  After two months of specialized nutritional care, medical care and a lot of love, Wendy was ready to be discharged.  But the care that the mother could provide wouldn’t be any better than what she had already given, so she begged for help. 

We brought home the 17-month-old baby and she weighed 14.5 pounds (the size of a 5-month-old).  It was a heartbreaking moment for all, but joy-filled at the same time because now Wendy has hope for her future. 

17-month-old baby now weighs 14.5 pounds
The nutritionist shared with me that she had lost 15+ babies so far this year, in that small rural hospital, due to babies coming in too malnourished to come back from the brink of death.  She shared her pain and her frustration that these deaths were preventable.

Another government official told me that she had found a “mushroom daycare” recently with 40 small children living in the room, under the table, just lying on the floor.  They are working diligently to shut these unofficial daycares down, but what is the alternative?  I simply don’t know the answer, but I do ask you to pray for the front line people who are dealing with these real life situations every day, and rarely have a viable solution to provide.

Today we have 158 children under the age of 7-years old living at Project Canaan.  We need your help more than ever. If you can help give monthly, please sign up to be a Heart for Africa Angel in the US or Canada.

If you want to help us today, please shop on our Amazon registries in either the US or Canada and send little Wendy diapers and wipes.  Every dollar spent helps us reduce our operating costs for these little ones.

Please pray for our staff who are tasked with the enormous responsibility of helping each of our children heal with special care and a lot of love.  As my friend Denise said last week, we are “loving them back to life”.  Amen.

Live from Swaziland … I am praying for all the mushroom babies in the country.

Janine

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Who cares?



Gogo Mona Lisa
I cannot tell you how encouraging it is to me to receive your kind comments, emails and words of encouragement each week. It shows me that YOU CARE, and you care very much.  This week I am going to give you a few fun updates on things that I know you care about.

Babies: 
·      We have 157 children under 7-years old. 
·      Our two severely underweight babies are doing great! Peace (who arrived 4-weeks-old weighing 3.7 pounds is now a whopping 7.5 pounds at 10-weeks-old).  Baby Amanda arrived as a newborn at 5 pounds and at 6-weeks-old is 8-pounds. Both are healthy and happy.
·      We expect another baby girl to arrive early next week. Stay tuned.  We are still very much in need of monthly donors to help us care for these children.


Ice cream:
·      On April 29th I posted a blog asking “How much is too much?” (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/04/how-much-is-too-much.html)  It was regarding whether or not we should splurge and buy a soft ice cream machine for our children.  Many of your sent me resounding words of encouragement AND put your money where your mouth is.  Within days, we had the funds to buy the machine and it arrived this week! 
·      What I didn't know about getting the ice cream machine was the sheer joy that would come to the staff, volunteers and our favorite Gogo when she had ice cream for the first time in her life!  63-year-old, Gogo Mona Lisa, giggled like a school-girl (even though she never went to school) when she received her very fist ice cream cone, and her joy was beyond anything that I had expected. Thank you all who made this possible.

Sr. Supervisors Welile and Khosi enjoy the first batch of soft ice cream.
Speaking of  “too much”:
·      Just days after I posted my blog about whether an ice cream machine was too much, we had two really cool (and affirming) things happen. The first was a couple who contacted us to donate $70,000 worth of brand new Montessori School tools/equipment/materials (yes, $70,000).  There are things for our smallest children through our oldest in our schools.  The second thing was that the new Golf Director at the Golf Course down the road, told us that he would like to start golf lessons for our big kids and get them involved with golf. WOW! I promise I don’t make this stuff up, but at that moment I realized that it is God who decides “how much is too much.”

Diapers Drive:
·      Our goal is to collect 146,000 diapers, which should last us a whole year.
·      Our goal is to collect 584,000 wipes, which should last us a whole year.
·      300 friends of Heart for Africa have already purchased 96,000 diapers and 315,00 wipes to date! We still have a ways to go before the container ships at the end of June, so please go to our Baby Registry Amazon accounts today and help us reach our goal. When you shop on those registries, the diapers are shipped directly to our warehouses in Canada or the US. It’s just SO easy.


Aquaponics test:
·      It has begun! 
·      We have started the system by putting ammonia in to the water.  Nitrates and nitrites are registering, which means that there is bacterial growth (which is a good thing). 
·      The first nine trays of lettuce seeds (1,100 plants) have been planted and have started to sprout.  This week Jonathan Marsh is heading to Colorado for an intense training course with our partners from EMERGE Aquaponics.  When he returns we will work on the next stage of the process.
·      We are all really excited about the growing potential of this innovative initiative. 


There are so many moving parts here at Project Canaan.  I will confess that I am pretty tired at the end of each day, but my head is spinning at 3AM with thoughts, ideas and prayer for the day ahead. I am thankful that the Lord continues to give us “one page at a time”, and that each new chapter is more exciting than the next.

Live from Swaziland… looking forward to Sunday, and a day of rest.

Janine

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why are people so nasty?


Aphiwe and Brooke
We have the opportunity to squeeze 240 boxes of diapers and wipes in to a 20ft container in Canada that is coming to us filled with donated educational supplies.  We don’t want to ship the container with any empty space so we have actively been asking our Canadian friends to shop at Amazon in Canada http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrivecanada and buy diapers and wipes to fill the container.  We have received 90 of the 240 boxes that we desire.

We needed a place for those diapers to be shipped and a dear friend agreed to have them shipped to her school, but they could only be there for a week due to limited space.  So another friend said she would be happy to borrow/rent a truck, go to the school and pick up the boxes and store them in her garage until the time of packing the container.  I love my friends.

I was so thrilled to see how smoothly this all happened with many people offering their assistance.  I saw photos on Facebook of the diapers being loaded in to the big box truck and volunteers happy to be involved.  It made my heart happy.

Then there was the Facebook comment.

Right below these happy photos was a comment (I have permission to share this) that read “Why are you sending those diapers to Africa when you should be sending them to the flood victims in Quebec?”

Honestly, I was shocked.  And I know I shouldn’t be because people post stupid comments on social media all the time, but really??  Why should you send diapers to orphans in Africa who don’t have parents to care for them?

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I love that when tragedy or natural disasters strike we have a country where family helps family, neighbors help neighbors and communities help communities. Many of us also have the opportunity to purchase insurance and then there are our Provincial and Federal governments who quickly jump in to help those in need.  It may not be perfect (and yes our taxes are high), but I am proud that the system works better than most.  When there is a problem, Canadians know that help is on the way.

I am now living in a country where families have nothing to give other families. Babies are dumped in out door toilets to die because young mothers have no food or even a blanket to wrap them in. Children die of malnutrition and neglect, right in front of our eyes, because we just don’t have the resources to save everyone.  In fact, just this week we saw an 8-month-old in our own immediate community die and we will have to bury him on Monday.  (Note, this is not a baby who lives at our baby home).
 
Gregory
I am thankful that there are people who are helping my neighbors in Quebec who are in need, but to the lady who posted that comment … I hope you are actively involved in helping in Quebec, not just sitting on the sidelines taking pot shots at others trying to help orphans in need.  Furthermore, stop being so nasty.

For those of you who support Heart for Africa and the children of Swaziland, I say THANK YOU.  For those of you who want to buy diapers for these babies I ask you to shop today in the US at http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrive  and in Canada at http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrivecanada.  We are only half way to our total goal.

Margie
For those of you who support other charities, ministries and organizations either financially or with your time, I THANK YOU!   There are a lot of people who need a lot of help around the world. I encourage everyone reading this today to get involved SOMEWHERE. It could be in Quebec, it could be in Swaziland or it could be right in your own community. 

It takes a village to raise a child. Please be active in your own village and for a very small group of you, please stop being critical of people for helping in a different village.

Live from Swaziland … thankful for all who can help us.

Janine

Saturday, May 13, 2017

When a wave of sadness hits.


Early Mother's Day photo with 76 Emseni children, 40 Toddler home children and Spencer. 

 

Two days ago I was overwhelmed by a wave of sadness.  We dropped Spencer off at the Johannesburg airport (after 8 wonderful weeks with us in Swaziland) and while I only shed a few tears at that moment, I got a message before we left the airport that our sweet kitty from back in our Aurora/Alpharetta days, had died.  Her name was Daisy, and she was a stunningly beautiful Bengal who we have missed dearly.



The tears started to flow, but then the phone rang. It was a social welfare officer asking if we had room for three small babies? There was an 8-month-old baby who had been hospitalized for malnutrition and abuse. Then there were two siblings who were being badly abused by their mentally disabled mother.  The 10-week-old baby boy would be thrown on the floor when he cried and the 2-year-old girl was being abused as well. 

I told her we would take them all, hung up the phone, and it hit me.

A wave of sadness washed over me like a tidal wave and I was completely overwhelmed by Spencer and Chloe living a million miles away, my dead cat (who hasn’t lived with me in five years) and the 157 children whose stories are horrific and haunting.  I sat in the passenger seat and cried, while Ian drove us east to the ocean and the sun set behind us.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and as the day approaches I am thinking about these things:

·      I am thankful for my 15-year-old birth mother who gave me up for adoption in 1963.
·      I am thankful for my adoptive parents (Bernice and Russ Willis) who gave me every opportunity in the world and showed me how to give generously and love completely.
·      I am thankful for my children, Spencer and Chloe, who have made me the proudest mom in the whole world. They give generously, and love completely.
·      I am thankful for (and overwhelmed by) by the 157 Swazi children who now call me Mom. 

Last Sunday at Children’s Church I was presented the most amazing gift by the staff and children at Project Canaan. They knew I was going to be dropping Spencer off in South Africa, and then head away for a quiet weekend in Durban, so they gave me an early Mother’s Day gift. It is a painting of tree that has each and EVERY SINGLE child and baby’s thumb print.  In the bottom right corner you will see the color legend that shows which colors represent which children’s home. 

There are 155 little thumb prints that make up this beautiful painting.
Yes, I stood in front of them all and cried, but they were not tear of sadness, rather they were tears of pure joy.  I stand amazed at the mosaic of circumstances and people that the Lord has brought together to create the most beautiful picture at Project Canaan, and I am humbled to be a part of it.

Please shop on the Heart for Africa Amazon Baby Registry today by clicking on http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrive  in the US and http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrivecanada in Canada.  We have a lot of babies who have been given the gift of life, and now they need the gift of diapers, wipes and a table to eat at.  Please shop generously, and maybe buy your mom a gift for Mother’s Day too! I promise she will love it!

Live from Durban… Happy Mother's Day.

Janine

Saturday, May 6, 2017

That's a load of 💩!



Two weeks ago I got the dreaded call. It was Helen saying, “Mom, we are completely out of diaper wipes!”

What? How can you have 155 babies and run out of wipes?   We change 400+ diapers a day, and we sure don’t want to do that without wipes!  YUCK!

I knew Ian was in town and so I asked him if he would mind stopping at the grocery store and get some wipes. He asked how many, and I said “ALL OF THEM!”.  Within a few minutes he sent me a photo of the “wipe section” at the grocery store and asked if I really wanted them all.  My answer was, no, but get all the big packs.

We have not had to buy diapers or wipes since August 2016 and that is because 300+ people from all over the world shopped on Amazon and purchased 165,000+ diapers and 170,000+ wipes.  We still have some diapers, but the wipes are finished.

We currently change 400 diapers and 1,600 wipes each and every day.  That means 146,000 per year and 584,000 wipes!  That’s a lot of poop!  AND, those numbers do not include days that our babies have diarrhea or when we have a stomach bug whip through the house!  Believe me, you really don’t want to be here then!


Today we are launching our 2nd annual Diaper Drive and I am inviting you to be a part of this important project.  It’s as easy as clicking on this link http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrive and shopping!  The shipping address on our Amazon Wish List is a warehouse that has been donated by a friend of Heart for Africa, so your purchases will come straight to our warehouse.

The UPS Foundation has very generously offered to ship a 40 ft container for FREE from Atlanta to Swaziland and it will be packed at the end of June.

We hope to fill the container in the next 3-4 weeks and get it over to Swaziland.  The Amazon list also have a few key items that we need and cannot buy in Swaziland, including two tables that each allows us to feed eight little ones at a time.   We also are looking for a few Little Tykes playhouses, that give our kids hours of activity and “old fashioned” play each day.


Will you help?  Please shop today, and then if you live in the US please copy this link  http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrive and post on your social media sites to invite your friends to be a part of this great need.  

If you live in Canada, please share this link http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrivecanada with your friends and family.  Every purchase helps us reduce our monthly expenses here in Swaziland.  I

f you would like to collect diapers in your community and bring them to us in Georgia, please contact tricia@heartforafrica.org and feel free to use this simple poster.



Ian and I both shopped at http://bit.ly/2017diaperdrive before I posted this blog.  I hope you will too.

Thanks!

Live from Swaziland … praying for diapers and wipes!

Janine

Saturday, April 29, 2017

How much is too much?


Caleb eating Ian's home made ice cream at our house.
Today I am in a bit of a funk.  I feel stuck between two worlds, and I am not sure how to live in both of them.  How much is too much when it comes to the children whom we are responsible for, especially when there are so many children in the country (continent/world) who have nothing?

Let me tell you a story.

During my first trip to Kenya, I remember having the BRILLIANT idea of hiring a refrigerated truck, driving to Nairobi and buying huge buckets of ice cream and then serving it to all the children at the Mully Children’s Family home in Ndalani. None of them would have had ice cream before and I wanted to give them a real treat, just as I would treat Spencer and Chloe.  When I shared my big idea with Mr. Mully, he very graciously suggested that maybe the children would enjoy some meat instead.   Duh. Yes, meat.  That was a much better idea, and something that they did not get often. Their father knew what was best for them, and I learned a valuable lesson that day.

We are now raising 155 Swazi children and everyone who comes to visit has an opinion on how we should be raising them.  Not a single person is raising 155 children themselves, but none-the-less share their thoughts with as many of our staff and volunteers as they can.

We have been accused of raising spoiled rich kids because our children have a plethora of push toys and Little Tykes play sets to play with.  We have been accused of turning the home in to a “Disney Land” because we have hand carved stone statues around the buildings.  We have been told that we are feeding our children too much, and that they would never get that much food if they were living back in their homestead. I would like to say that we have heard it all, but I am sure we have not.
"Aslan" the lion is our school mascot. This stone was carved on Project Canaan with stone found on the farm.
This week Ian, Spencer and I were running errands in town and we stopped in to a store that sells commercial kitchen supplies.  My eyes immediately went to a large soft ice cream machine. That would be wonderful for our children!  I think it could even make frozen yoghurt (that we make ourselves from the milk from the dairy).  


We have 155 children now, with 65 full time staff members, and many many volunteers/guests throughout the year. I am sure visitors would be happy to pay for ice cream (and maybe even buy it as a treat for our children from time to time). But the cost of the machine was $1,600 USD.  I would never ask a donor to buy an ice cream machine, but I would certainly consider buying it myself?  Why? Because I often bought Spencer and Chloe ice cream as a treat, and these little ones are our children too.  But it’s much harder to take 155 children to town for ice cream than it was to put two kids in the back of my car. 

Levi, Hope, Caleb and Joshua enjoying Ian's ice cream.
But here’s the rub.  There are children all over Swaziland who have no food.  They have no meat.  They have no one to care for them or provide safety. So why should our children get soft ice cream?  Isn’t that exactly what the nay-sayers are saying to us when they point out our “extravagances”?

When I told Ian that I was struggling with this today, he reminded me that God has told us that He is doing a “new work” on Project Canaan. He has entrusted us with these young lives, and we do believe that we are raising the future leaders of this nation. But does that mean that they should get soft ice cream when others don’t get meat?  I don’t know.

So today I am in a bit of a funk.  I have one foot in a country that I love, where poverty and orphan-headed-households surround us, and the other foot is with 155 children, who I want to give all that I can to give them a wonderful childhood and set them up for success as adults.

Live from Swaziland … wondering, how much is too much?

Janine

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Breathe


The past few weeks Ian and I have noticed that we have been able to breathe much better. It’s not the air quality, it’s not the humidity levels, it’s called “margin”. 

We have been living in Swaziland for almost five years and for most of those five years we have been in full on building mode.  We started with farming and worked tirelessly to install drip irrigation, build dams, clear farmland, train workers and find channels of distribution.

Then the first baby, Joshua, arrived.  And babies started arriving more and more frequently, with a current five-year average of a child arriving every 12 days.  This not only required us to continue building homes for the children and staff housing, but also schools, a medical clinic and focus on training in the areas of health (among the many things HIV/TB and severe malnutrition), nutrition, childcare and child development.

For many who have been here they will agree that we are building a “city on a hill”.  For those of you who may remember the game “Sim City”, it’s kind of like a real life version of that.  It’s not just putting up a building or two (on a mountain side in Africa), but it’s planning for roads, electricity, water access, septic tanks, transporting people, sourcing and storage of materials (building, food, diesel, supplies etc).

Building a city on a hill (technically a mountain).
This is ALL new to Ian and me. We are not land developers, we have no experience in city planning and we did not grow up in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland and therefore know all the ins and outs of working here.  Did I mention that this is ALL new to us.  But we have the Master builder, the Master planner who is directing our path.

Last year was a very hard year for us personally, with people working tirelessly to tear us down. It was fraught with a lot of criticism, judgement, discouraging words and downright evil intentions.  There were days that I felt like giving up, but we had a couple of key people (you know who you are) who stood with us and carried us when needed, to get us through. Satan is alive and well and he is here to kill and destroy.  THAT I know for sure.

This year, I feel that we are now breathing fresh air AND we both have margin in our days.  We are not running frantically anymore because the “building” phase of Project Canaan is complete, and now we are in the “development” phase.   Yes, we still have buildings to build (ie the 2nd grade classroom is being built this month), but we now have more time to think, plan, train and develop our people.

I’ll give you three quick examples of what I am talking about:

1.     Our Lusito Mechanics shop was always in “quick fix” mode with many vehicles needing things fixed due to the bad roads or conditions here.  This week is our third year having Rick Cogbill and our friends from Mercy Tech in Canada doing intense training for TWO MONTHS to teach our guys preventive care, proper repair as well as organization, planning and controls.  The students were ready and the teacher appeared. 

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill
2.     The Emseni Campus is where our big kids live. Our Aunties and Uncles have done an amazing job in caring for, disciplining and loving our children. But we now have 74 children between the ages of 3-6 living at Emseni and it is a monster job.  Today starts a one month school break, which now requires significant planning to keep those 74 (who would have been in school each day) active, engaged and loved.  Then comes Bryan Throgmorton, who has taken on the position of Program Director.  He works intentionally to create a plan with our senior staff to engage our children in all areas of spirituality, physical fitness, arts, music, drama, chores, reading and more so that their time is well spent and the children continue to thrive.  In addition to Bryan, the Lord sent Margie Brewer to us from the US. She is not only an experienced Social Worker with her Masters degree, but she has lived in Swaziland for ten years and is helping us bridge the divide in child rearing between the western way and the Swazi way.  Truly gifts from heaven.



3.     Our Khutsala Artisans shop has expanded and the building has doubled.  This has allowed us to not only hire more local people, but also has given us room to properly run a business of it’s size.  We now have a room to store all of our beads and wire in an orderly fashion, allowing us to manage supply chain better.  We have a meeting room that allows Supervisor meetings, private conversations for HR, people who need counseling, discipline, discipleship or a word of encouragement.  Another room provides the right space for daily counts, production tracking, packing, shipping and invoicing.  Spencer has been here working daily on computer training, designing easy-to-use packing slips and invoice systems that support the existing software program.  I cannot explain the joy that I see on the faces of our leadership team with all this happening. 



Why am I telling you all this? It’s to say that Ian and I have room to breathe now. We have many of the right people in the right place and so we don’t have to be directly involved in (or worry about) every single part of this city on the hill.  Frankly, there is no way that we could.

Heart for Africa and Project Canaan are SO MUCH bigger than Ian and Janine Maxwell.  I am just thankful that we have been given the opportunity to play a small role in this big plan and that so many of you have also stepped up to play your part.  The African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I am thankful that you are a part of our village. 

Live from Swaziland … I love margin.

Janine