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Saturday, January 18, 2020

A new kind of January?

Typically, Ian and I travel to the US/ once a year, in October for fundraising events and Board meetings. But this year we were invited to a very special event at Sea Island in Georgia in early January so we headed west and started a busy year of travel. We were honored to be able to speak at the AWAKENING 2020 and to spend time with dear friends AND, a bonus visit with Spencer!

Jan & Ernest Taylor with Jean and Jerry Eickoff

Spencer in the Canadian seat at the G8 Summit table at Cloister.

Then we headed up to Boston to visit Nokuphiwa (Phiwa) and Nokwanda.  Phiwa is here in the US for her second round of reconstructive surgeries to repair the burns she sustained when she was only 2-days-old.  She is here with Nokwanda, her faithful friend, big sister and guardian. They are in the US for four months while Phiwa has the skin on her scalp expanded through weekly injections of fluid that will allow enough skin to stretch enough to eventually cover her scalp once they do the crainioplasty in early March. We enjoyed taking the girls to see “Star Wars” (don’t judge), out for a great seafood dinner, and of course, ended with a trip to Target for whatever they needed (including introducing Nokwanda to “Cherry Garcia” Ben & Jerry’s ice cream).    

From there we traveled to Nashville where we had a two day “off site” meeting with our Heart for Africa US staff.  It’s always fun to get together with this team of people whom we love dearly, and it was a chance for us to share our vision for 2020, discuss plans to help feed more children and have a good belly laugh or two.  This year we added Hannah Gaddis to the team and she will be leading our Hunger Initiative 2020 (stay tuned for more info next week).  We also hired a Marketing Coordinator, whose name will be familiar to many of you … Maggie (Taylor) Lian!  Maggie’s mom, Donna Taylor, worked at Heart for Africa for many years and we are thrilled to have the next generation on the team.

Yesterday we came back to Atlanta to meet with some amazing women from Easter Seals who will help us think through and design our home for disabled children. Then it was home to pack, enjoy a quiet evening (did you know that you can order pizza and it is delivered to your door? We need THAT in Eswatini!). 

While we were busy in the US, the Project Canaan Academy School year started with 187 children in attendance!  The kids were SO excited to go back to school, and we are so thankful for Amber VanWinkle and incredible group of teachers.

In addition to that excitement, we welcomed our 260th child last week. His name is Dillan and he was born on March 27th, 2018.  We are thankful for his life and thankful that we get to play a big part in his future.

Ian and I hop on a 16-hour flight back to Johannesburg tonight and then make the 5-hour drive home in the morning.  These trips don’t get any easier, but we enjoy the time we get to spend with friends and family and are thankful for the team that keeps everything running smoothly at Project Canaan while we are away!

Live from Pete & Julie Wilkerson’s couch … we are going home today!


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Total opposites

This week has been a VERY busy one in Eswatini, with six teams of Project Canaan staff, volunteers from the US and our older children going out to 25 of our 30 church partners and doing “well child checks” on the 3,500 children whom we feed every week. We are trying to get a baseline on the level of malnutrition at each location so that we can improve our feeding program in 2020.  

In the weeks ahead we will be accepting applications from churches or organizations (ie Rotary International or a school) in the US and Canada to partner with one of our 30 church partners to help eradicate malnutrition in that church in 2020.  More on this initiative to come.

I am thankful for Anthony Mutua and Ncobile Dlamini who are leading the charge with these assessments and for Janice Johnson, Lori Marschall, Beth Blaisdell and Kim Kennedy who flew to Africa to help with the this project all week as Ian and I are in the US.  It was a monumental task.

Anna and Joshua at the end of a LONG day.

Each day I get photos from Eswatini and I long to be there. Seeing our children out in the rural communities learning about how Swazi’s live without running water or electricity makes me want to be with them as they learn

Today I received photos from Margie about the four toddlers (Dinah, Shalom, Simeon and Phiwa who moved from the toddler home up to the Emseni Campus.  They just look so very sweet and excited to move up with “the big kids” (our 3-year-olds).  

Dinah, Shalom, Simeon and Phiwa moving to E1.
 In complete contrast, Ian, Spencer and I are at a beautiful 5-star hotel at Sea Island, speaking at a conference and enjoying an incredibly comfortable bed, delicious food, lots of hot running water and great friends.  I had the privilege of speaking at this “Think Tank” yesterday and now get to enjoy learning from some brilliant minds for the rest of the weekend. Ironically, the internet this morning was as bad as it is in Eswatini and I couldn’t get on line to post this blog so Spencer had to set up a hotspot from his phone  πŸ˜‚!

Ian and I typically only visit North America once a year, in October, but we will be here four times in the next six months. We are blessed to be invited to share the situation in Eswatini and the plight of the children, while inviting people to join us in fighting hunger, caring for orphans, decreasing poverty and providing education in Eswatini. Would you like to join us in 2020 too?

Live from Sea Island … it’s Saturday morning.


Saturday, January 4, 2020

What's Up?

I don’t think I have ever wanted a year to end more than 2019.  Last year was a tough year, but also a great year with much being accomplished, but 2020 should be fun, so this blog is about what’s up for 2020.

Both beetroot and butternut squash are staples here in Eswatini and while we are still growing hundreds of thousands of beetroot plants for consumption and sale, we also just harvested enough butternut squash to last our kitchens a WHOLE YEAR (6,000kg/13,228lbs) and we are selling it too!  We have a large cold storage facility to store it in, and we are thrilled to be able to provide these products from our farm.

Ian is very excited about our new “worm pit”. Yes, you read that correctly.  We just built a concrete composter that is 12 yards wide x 6 yards long x 2 yards high.  It has four sections which will be filled with worms and compostable material from the kitchen and fields.  There are four sections so that our worms can move from one section to the next as we harvest the compost to use on our fields.  We will have a LOT of compost going on.  When we were telling our kids about this new project, Esther asked Ian, “How will you protect the worms from birds who want to eat them?” 

Excellent question Esther!  We are waiting for a cover to be made to put over the top and keep the worms safe from birds and sunlight and keep them focused on the job at hand. This important project helps get us one step closer to sustainability and eco-friendly.  A worm can procreate every week, producing up to six baby worms so we expect to have more than one hundred thousands worms by the end of 2020.  Did you know that worms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs?  Oh the things we know now, that we NEVER thought we would need to know!

This year our construction department will be building a 3rd and 4th grade (two-storey/double class for both grades), and it will be constructed only during school breaks so that the kids aren’t going to school in a work site(!).  The plan is to have the foundation and floor pad poured and the work site cleaned up before the school year starts on January 18th.

Our construction team will also be building “Oasis 2”, which will eventually be a dining hall for our teenagers, but for the next few years will serve as a recreation center for our kids, and a place to receive oxygen for their minds, bodies and souls, which is why we affectionately call it “O2”.   Beside O2 we will build a home for disabled children. This will be a home for our most severely disabled children who will not likely be able to attend any kind of schooling due to the extreme and complicated nature of their disabilities.  And as soon as we raise the funds needed for the next Emseni dorm (E6 will be home to 40 children) we will start building it immediately as we have children who will need to move in to it by the end of 2020.

We received 42 babies last year for a total of 258 children (we average between 35-40 babies every year), so we would expect that trend to continue.  We are raising these children as our own, and so they have always done age-appropriate chores (including the 2-year-olds who clean up their toys before going in to eat and even take their own dirty diaper to the garbage can. While we have an exceptional team of cleaners who keep all of the buildings clean and healthy, we decided to have our older children (living in E4 and E5) learn how to clean and take care of their own house back in December.  As Ian and I do our morning walks around the farm we were encouraged by seeing both boys and girls learning how to mop the floor properly, hang out laundry and take pride in their home.  I cannot say enough about how INCREDIBLE our Caregiver team is.

The video below was taken this morning at an impromptu dance party at the Oasis. These kids just crack me up! I hope it makes you smile too.

I have no doubt that 2020 will have challenges of its own, for all of us. The world seems to becoming a crazier place with more instability every day. For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we must remember to keep our eyes Him, and Him alone.  Be prayerful in where you are to be and what you are to be doing, and have peace in the knowledge that Jesus is securely on the throne.

Live from Eswatini … Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Same same.

Happy 9th birthday Gabriel!
Happy 9th birthday Rose!
 When our children see something that looks the same as something else they immediately say “same same”.  It could be a twin, an article of clothing or a candy.  It’s really cute, and we hear it all the time.

The past 48 hours here has been the “same” as the past 12 months and also the “same” as the past 10 years – filled with the highs and lows of life in Eswatini.

On Thursday we had extreme heat here and the humidity was unbearable.  The heat caused the power in the whole country to shut down and then come on for a bit and then off again.  The greenhouse was too hot for anyone to walk in to it because the fans weren’t working.  When the power grid for the Kingdom goes out we have back-up generators that automatically turn on. On Thursday the generator which provides the air for the green house (keeping the plants alive and fish oxygenated) is the same one that keeps the 5,000 laying hens cool with fans and it’s the same one that we use to milk cows and keep the milk cool (not to mention the power for mechanic shop and many people who live there).  We don’t have air conditioning in our buildings so we depend on ceiling fans to keep us alive.

Well, that generator got so hot that it too overheated and shut off. Within 30 minutes we started seeing chickens die from the heat.  While one team worked on fixing the big generator, another team got a small generator to the green house to try to at least keep the fish in the Aquaponics systems alive, and another team went to work at the laying hen barn to try to mist water on the birds and water the roof to cool it down.  Within an hour we had lost 166 chickens to the heat. The power finally came back on and major crisis was averted.  Another day in Africa. 

Early the next day I received a phone call from social welfare about a newborn baby girl who was born on Sunday, December 22nd and whose mother just ran away from the hospital, having given a false name for herself so she was untraceable.  Within an hour Ian, Chloe and I were in the car to go and bring home a new baby girl (whom we are naming Jaimee). Ian looked at me and said, “You will be 74-years-old when Jaimee finishes High School with us”. Another 18-year commitment (God willing).  A sobering thought.

The lows are low and the highs are high. This year we lost two babies, we had a massive fire that burned most of our property and we watched people die of hunger or malnutrition throughout the country.   We also celebrated the 10th anniversary of Project Canaan, received 42 new babies who now call Project Canaan “home” and were able to restart our agriculture program. 

I could share similar highs and lows over the last decade, but I think you get the drift, and I’m tired.

The one thing that has remained constant through the joy and the sorrow has been the presence of God.  We try not to fear, we try not to worry and we try not to be discouraged, which would all be impossible without His peace that passes ALL understanding.  He is the King Kings and the Lord of Lords and the Prince of Peace, and we rest firmly in that knowledge and rely on His power. 

This job is an impossible one by human standards, but NOTHING is impossible to the creator of the universe.

This morning Chloe and I went down to hang out with the kids.  As we sat and chatted with some of the older kids, others were doing chores around us, taking down Christmas decorations, sweeping, weeding and even delivering toilet paper from storage to each house.  As I rounded the corner to the swing sets I could hear our 4-year-old girls swinging and singing “Away in a Manger” and it simply brought me joy.  God has a plan for each of these children just as He has a plan for Spencer and Chloe and just as He has a plan for you.  Don’t miss out on His plan because you think your plan is better. I promise you, it isn’t.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog in 2019 or maybe even from the beginning. Thank you to everyone who sponsors a child, gives to Heart for Africa on a regular basis or has made a year-end donation.   We only have three more days to meet our year-end goals that will allow us to continue accepting more children, growing more food, feeding more children and employing more adults in 2020. 

Will you partner with us by giving your best gift to HIM today?  He is our provider, but He is inviting you to be a part of His plan. 

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ US Donors:
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Many blessings to you and your family and I pray that you have a God filled 2020.

Live from Eswatini … hopeful for 2020.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

Joy and heartache, often in the same day

One of the things I LOVE about living in Africa is that I don’t feel the “hustle and bustle” of the Christmas season. My shopping is done, wrapping complete and now it’s time to sit and enjoy the view, and my many children.

We did have two staff parties this week for our 320+ employees and I didn’t have to do anything other than attend.  I love seeing the child-like joy that our Swazi brothers and sisters exhibit with their bread eating contest or when they cheer on the three men who are trying to drink a 2L bottle of Coca Cola first. From a tug of war (in bare feet on a gravel road) to the free dance competition, from Swazi cultural dances to poems about Project Canaan – it’s all fun and there is a sense of innocence that I don’t feel at any other time of the year.

2019 started with the death of two babies – a very bad way to start the year.  Throughout the year we received 41 new children, some very sick, malnourished and almost dead. But we have managed to love them back to life.  We have had many hospital admissions, broken bones, Tuberculosis, meningitis, brain surgery, HIV/AIDS, lumbar punctures and we have a little guy with a very rare and serious condition called Steven Johnson Syndrome (he also has been diagnosed with Lissencephalye).  Please pray for Kenneth and the Aunties who are caring for him. My learning curve remains steep, my prayer life active, and my eyes focused on the creator of the Universe.

Most of Project Canaan is closed for the holiday season and our staff typically save holiday days for this time of year so that they won’t be back to work until January 6th.  Of course our Children’s Campus staff are all busy with keeping 257 children fed, cared for, loved and busy!  Our days are filled with swimming lessons, karate, long walks, scavenger hunts and yummy food.

Yesterday we started our day with an urgent phone call about a mysterious fire that started in the Emseni 4 boys home, that burned a couch and could have ended in disaster.  Then we ended our day hosting 22 kids up to our house for dinner and ice cream sundaes.  They were all the Primary school kids who got all A’s and B’s on their final report card. Our lives are filled with joy and heartache, often in the same day, and lots of “unknown”, but we know that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and rest well in that knowledge.

Spencer and Chloe are home for the holidays and my heart is full.  I love sitting by the fire and talking for hours, I love cooking their favorite meals and I love seeing them interact with the other children who call us “mom” and “dad”.  My world is spinning properly today and I have much to be thankful for.  I pray that you can take a moment of calm to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for – even in the darkest days we all have reasons to give thanks. 

Live from Eswatini … Merry Christmas from our family to yours.


PS - please consider making a year end gift to Heart for Africa today.
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Saturday, December 14, 2019

For the love of God and humanity – something has to change

Last Saturday afternoon I received a call from a social worker who was clearly distraught. She was in a police car with two babies who she had just found locked up in a very broken down room made of mud and sticks, but missing most of the mud and sticks. It was a very cold and rainy day and a neighbor reported the case to the police after no longer being able to live with the screams of terror coming from the two children.

I was told that the father AND mother would lock the two children (17-months-old and 3.5-years-old) in that room EVERY DAY while they went off to work for 10 to 12 hours at a time.  The children were half naked, and the small boy didn’t even have a sweater.  But the worst of it to me, was the shovel left in the middle of the floor with the pap (cooked maize flour) on it for them to eat during the day, like dogs.  Who does that? Where has the humanity gone? 

The parents were in police custody and they social worker was desperate for a place for the children to go before the sun went down. Unfortunately, we don’t accept children over the age of 24-months, so I suggested they go to the halfway house (which is full to overflowing) or a hospital (the social worker would have had to go and stay at the hospital with them) or to another home (no other homes accept children late on a Saturday night).  This social worker pleaded with me for temporary placement for the kids so that at least they would be safe and warm and clean and have food in their bellies. 
A photo from inside the house looking out through the walls.

I said yes.  How could I not?

When the police van arrived late in the day, I reached in to receive the 17-month-old boy who was the size of a 6-month-old. The 3.5-year-old boy jumped out of the van and wrapped his arms around my legs and gave me a big hug, then looked up at me and smiled.  That child should have been freaking out with fear and trepidation!  He was just removed from his house, his parents taken away, he rode with strangers for a hour and then was met by a middle-aged white lady.  But instead, I think he was just happy to see someone who looked friendly and who was loving his little brother.  

The malformed and rotting teeth of the 3.5-year old
I never get used to this type of unnatural response from a child who has had so much abuse and abandonment, so young.

We now have a small clinic at the Children’s Campus and it has two isolation rooms, which have been a HUGE gift to us all, and it’s been used since the day it was finished back in August.  We thank the Lord and all the people who gave money to make this clinic possible.  Because of YOU were able to bring these two children in for the weekend while another alternative care facility was found.  The children made the front page of the national newspaper and there was a public outcry against the parents, but we hear stories of children being locked in houses all day ALL THE TIME.  This is not new.   

Just two weeks ago we received a set of twin boys who are 15-months-old and also the size of 6-month-olds. The smaller boy weighed 12 pounds and the other twin 13 pounds.  They came from the exact same situation, locked in a mud room day after day, week after week.  The photo below shows a twin on both sides of our boy Cornelius, who is roughly the same age.  Cornelius came to us as a preemie, under three pounds in weight, but has responded well to food and love and he is DOUBLE their size.

For the love of God and humanity – something has to change in Eswatini.

I’m asking you to join us in rescuing more children in need in 2020 by making a Year End gift today.

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Live from Eswatini … something’s got to give.


P.S. On Tuesday the children were placed at another home who does accept older children, and we know that they will be well cared for there. The parents bail was set at $412 US.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Horror turned to joy

Just four days ago Eswatini was the hottest place on earth with temperatures as high as 44C / 111F, and then it dropped 40 F and has been cold and rainy for the past few days.  We go from dripping with sweat to being bundled up with long pants, socks and jackets!  But at least we don’t have any snow, so I won’t complain (much).

Gaby is (finally) home from the hospital and got to sit with Ian for graduation.
Our children just finished their school year which runs from the end of January to early in December, and yesterday we witnessed the Kindergarten graduation, which was amazing.  It wasn’t just the cheering squad of Aunties/Uncles/Big brothers that brought me joy, and it wasn’t just the understanding that some of them had worked SO very hard to pass this year’s tests, but it was the knowledge of where they came from and where they are today.

As I watched each child go up on stage to receive their graduation diploma my mind raced back to the first day I met them.  I vividly remembered the day that little girl was found in a plastic bag under a bush, having been there for two days after birth. I remember being in the operating room when that little one came out of her mother’s womb before the mother was taken back to the National Tuberculosis Hospital with multiple drug-resistant TB.  And that one over there was strangled at birth by her mother while in prison and a prison guard had to do CPR to bring her back to life – she still has a small scar on her neck where her mother’s finger nail dug in to her skin.

Each of our children have had unique and horrific beginnings, and each one is worse than the next.  But seeing the joy on their faces yesterday helped fade the memories of the past, and quickly fill my mind with joy and thanksgiving of all that God has done in their lives.  And it was a strong reminder of all that He has done in OUR OWN lives, having been given the privilege of serving the Lord through these children.  

Pure joy.
Heart for Africa has a really cool Gift Catelog this year designed for people who want to give an important Christmas gift that has long term effects.  You can give the gift of education for one of our children, or perhaps a pair of rubber boots to help them get to school through the ankle-deep mud, or maybe a few fruit trees that will provide healthy fruit for decades to come?  Please be sure to check out our catalog and share it with others. 

And don’t forget to shop at for the perfect African Christmas decoration or piece of jewelry. 

As you enjoy the Christmas season with friends and family, please consider making a year- end gift to Heart for Africa so that we can continue to have “room in our inn” for babies in desperate need.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ US Donors:
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Live from Eswatini …please watch our year end video and be encouraged.