Sign up to receive this blog by email

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A paradigm shift in my thinking

Last week I received a call about a newborn baby who has just been found in the forest, still bloody from birth, umbilical cord attached, but crudely torn away from her mother’s womb. 

The social worker told me that she had given the child the name “Usiphile Favor”.  Usiphile means “He has sent us” in the siSwati language, so her name means “He has sent us favor”.  I did a quick biblegateway search of the word “favor” and it took me directly to Isaiah 61, which was interesting because just that morning I had read Isaiah 61 in my daily scripture reading.  The headline read “The Year of the Lord’s favor”.   

 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,  to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  Isaiah 61:1-3

 

It was at that moment that I had a paradigm shift.  I realized that I had been mourning through this terrible year of Covid-19. I had been feeling like a prisoner here in Eswatini with our borders closed and I suffered from the spirit of despair. But why? I was missing the year of favor that was right in front of my eyes.

 

Suddenly, it was as if a giant curtain was pulled back and I instantly looked at my world differently.  This has been a year of the Lord’s favor for Heart for Africa and Project Canaan.  We have the funds to start building Emseni #7 for our older boys and O2, our huge, double story recreation center and dining hall.  We have the funds to build double story classrooms for of 3rd and 4th grade.  We hired a full time Farm Manager who is maximizing the utilization of our irrigated fields, producing a bountiful harvest for consumption and for sale.  He has been able to increase employment opportunities, when most companies were laying people off or closing their doors.  Our greenhouse is flourishing with fresh produce that goes straight from farm to table. 

 

We were given funds to get phase one of our dairy expansion moving forward so that we can increase the capacity for more cows, which means more milk production, which meant more income generation.  The water is flowing freely down the mountain and our dams are full. With water security we were able to expand our irrigated fields by an additional 17-acres, allowing us to grow alfalfa to feed our dairy herd.  All of this was happening in front of my eyes during the time of Covid-19, and I was feeling sorry for myself.

This year of the Lord’s favor also included funding to import a new water filtration system from Israel that produces 1,100 gallons of clean drinking water per hour for the entire property, ensuring that no deadly water born illnesses are present. We were given funding to create an intensive goat breeding program, which included 10-acres of fenced area complete with structures for breeding, birthing and treatment (including a foot bath!). 

 

Heart for Africa US has also established partnerships with an organization called Gleanings for the Hungry, who has already shipped us two 40ft containers filled with dried beans and hearty soup mix filled with dried vegetables, pasta and rice. Another organization called The Gleaners in British Columbia, Canada is shipping a container of dried vegetables and apples, topped up with gently used clothing collected by our friends Carol and Barry Hickman (and team!). The biggest surprise was a donation of a 4-stall computerized feeding system for our dairy that will also ship on the Canadian container.

 

Today in Georgia, our friends Julie and Pete Wilkerson, along with the incredible staff from SCAPES Landscaping, are packing a container that UPS is shipping to us for free.  It will be filled to the brim with diapers and wipes that so many of our supporters have bought through our annual amazon diaper drive. There are also bikes, helmets, medical supplies, clothes, kiddie pools, and 1,800+ bras that many of my girlfriends quickly collected over the past week to send to my female staff here on Project Canaan.

Last, but certainly not least, many of you know that we lost our beloved Doberman, Max, a few weeks ago.  As soon as we knew he wouldn’t be with us for long, Ian contacted the breeder who we got Max from. That very day one of their females gave to birth to 11 puppies, and we were able to buy two of them.  Today, we picked up our Doberman puppies, who we named “Chicago” (Spencer lives in Chicago) and “Saint” (Chloe lives in St. Catharines).  It was only after we had the dogs registered in South Africa that we learned that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have children named Chicago and Saint. Sigh. Well, you can’t win 'em all.

Last week we received a 3.5 pound baby girl named “Blessing”, so Blessing and Favor are now with us.  I WILL rejoice and be glad.

Live from Eswatini … in puppy heaven!

Janine

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Just look at these children!

200 Faces of HOPE puzzle coming to PC for Christmas!  Shhh! Don't tell the children!

How can it be August 1st already?  Some days I feel stuck on March 25th when Eswatini went in to lockdown and the borders closed.  And then some days I feel like I have at least made it to June, but August?  No way! 

 

Today’s blog will be a photo blog, with pictures of our children in their homes.  We have a lot of children!  A few weeks ago I asked Bryan to help me set up photos with the children in each house.  As always, our children and staff are quick to do what they are asked to do, and they love having their photos taken, so the exercise was painless and quick. The reason for the photos was so that I could have Lisa, in the US office, order Shutterfly puzzles of these photos!  Each puzzle is age appropriate with the number of pieces, and they are ready to be shipped in the container. I can’t wait to see the children work on putting puzzles together with their very own faces!



Needless to say, the toddlers and babies won’t be doing puzzles (or be given the opportunity to eat puzzle pieces), so I didn’t take a photo of them together.

 

I hope you are blessed by these photos today!

 

By the way, our Diaper Drive is finished and YOU BOUGHT EVERYTHING on our wish (and dream) lists! We have enough diapers and wipes to last the next year, and in addition we have bicycles, helmets, games, books, educational toys and so many more things that will help us raise our future leaders to be the best that they can be. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity and love.

 

Live from Eswatini … we are blessed.

 

Janine

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A whole lot of hurt, and a Blessing


I have a lot of crazy conversations on a weekly basis, but this week seemed particularly heartbreaking. I was sick all week, in my pajamas for five days, but still received phone calls asking for help.

 

One social worker called me to ask for help in December 2020 for a baby who was not wanted.  The mother is 4-months pregnant and when she went to tell the father of the baby (a one-night stand) that she was pregnant, she found out he was dead.   The social worker went on to explain that this young woman had three other children, and ALL three of their fathers were also dead.  She didn't know the causes, and it isn't really appropriate to ask here.

 

One of our staff reported that her son had broken both of his legs and she had to go home to assist because he was living with her Grandmother (both of her parents are dead), and the old woman couldn’t manage the child with two broken legs.  When her sister tried to find the father of the boy to ask for help, she found him dead by suicide, and the corpse rotten.

 

Ian had a conversation with our Farm Manager about farm workers. He has a challenge with women not showing up for work for days at a time, or disappearing entirely.  When investigating what the problem is, he discovered that domestic violence was at the core. Men are at home because there is no work, liquor stores have been closed for many months so home brew is on the rise, which can cause brain damage, blindness and even death. Women are being badly beaten and either end up in the hospital or flee to another part of the country.  When I asked our Khutsala Manager about this, she said that we have several women at Khutsala with the same challenges.

 


Yesterday we received the smallest baby we have ever received.  She weighs 1.59 kg or 3.5 pounds, and arrived 2-3 months early.  The mother of the baby called the father to say the baby had arrived early and the father now denies paternity because the baby didn’t come when she was supposed to, therefore it can’t be his.  The mother is sick and has no way to care for this tiny little girl, so after 10-days of hospitalization, she came home to us.  Her name is Blessing and she was born on July 13th.  The photo below shows her beside baby Moira, who was abandoned behind a grocery store near us just two weeks ago.  The girls were born approximately three days apart.  We have some work to do with our 270th baby.


People are getting sicker by the day here, and covid-19 testing has almost come to a halt with government not having any money for fuel for their vehicles.  We are thankful for the health of our children and give thanks to everyone who continues to support this mission. Without you we would be in chaos.


The good news of the week is that we received and installed a Steel Water Treatment System that will filter 1,100 gallons per hour.  The system was designed and built in Israel and shipped in a 20’ container that arrived last week.  These things don't happen without challenges, so we were without water for 30 hours (yep, 269 children, 90+ staff with NO WATER 😩).  But we have water now, and it is clean, and we give thanks.

 


This is the last week for our diaper drive.  Last weekend ALL of our bikes, trikes and wagons were purchased, but amazon had a BIG problem, and cancelled many people’s orders.  It was a MESS. So, those items are back on the list and I am hoping that some of you will shop this weekend at https://bit.ly/hfadiaperdrive2020.  The deadline says July 31st, but we really have until August 4th, so please shop today!  We really really need to fill this container.

 

Thanks for your love and support.

 

Live from Eswatini … I am going to leave the house for the first time in 6 days.

 

Janine

Saturday, July 18, 2020

I'm in a funk


Last year on July 18th we were all gathered at the new Imphilo Amphitheater to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Project Canaan. There were more than 1,000 people gathered together and 100+ family, friends and volunteers traveled to Eswatini to celebrate with us.

 

Early during the celebration that we saw smoke starting to rise over the mountain behind our house. Little did I know that only a few hours later the fires would be just a few yards from our home, and that 48 hours later we would still be fighting fires that would burn 90% of our property, putting our family and staff’s lives in danger.

 

The next day, on July 19th, I was standing near the chapel with Sarah Windham and Dr. Mark McGee when a red-hot fire ember flew 50 feet in the air, over our heads and landed on the top of the beautiful grass thatched roof of our chapel. Within two minutes the whole roof had erupted in to flames, and the chapel burned to the ground.  I stood sobbing, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The fires would get worse that day, and would not be fully extinguished for another 18 hours.

 

This chapel was built and dedicated in 2009, and it burned to the ground ten years later.  Today we are fighting a different kind of fire, and it’s called Covid-19. Its embers are flying high in the sky landing in all parts of the world, including Eswatini. Cases were continuing to grow, but now testing has slowed down because the government has run out of money for fuel for vehicles.  The government is broke, so drivers can’t take test kits to clinics or take samples back to the lab to be tested.  In fact, this week we had to drive to the police station to pick up a baby who had been left in the bush because the entire police department and social welfare department didn’t have diesel for their cars to take the baby to the hospital. Things are bad here.

 

I find myself in a funk as I sit and write this blog. Our borders are closed, and will be well in to 2021.  That means we don’t get to see Spencer and Chloe for Christmas, we don’t get to go to Durban to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary in October, we can’t even run to South Africa to pick up some fun food.  We are stuck, and today I feel a bit like a caged animal.

 

I know many of you have felt the same way too, locked in your houses for months.  We are all likely feeling the same way about Covid-19 and are “OVER IT!”.  We don’t have the mask conflict here that seems to be plaguing the USA.  Since we have the highest HIV rate in the world, and it is estimated that 70% of our total population has active or inactive Tuberculosis, we all really embrace social distancing and wearing masks.  It’s the only way to stay alive here.

 

Today I will sit in front of small space heater (it’s winter here), with my cat, mourning the loss of our Doberman, Max, last week, and generally just feeling sorry for myself.  I’m allowed to do that, for a day. Tomorrow is a new day and we will dedicate the newly built chapel with performances by all our children. I hope you will all join us on the Heart for Africa Facebook page on Sunday, July 19th at  9AM EST. I promise you will be blessed.

 

I will also be shopping on our amazon wish list and sending a few things on the UPS container that is shipping next month,  and I REALLY hope you will too. This container is the one chance during the year to ship items to us, and now that we won’t have visitors coming for the foreseeable future, we really need help.

 

I would like to specifically ask for people to buy bikes and helmets for our staff and kids.  We have 269 children who are LOCKED DOWN on Project Canaan – no field trips, no visits to town, nothing. So, riding bikes around the farm is a really great way to have fun and keep everyone active.  Will you buy a bike and/or helmet today and help us out? I think I will get Ian a bike as an anniversary gift. 👀

 

Live from Eswatini … in a funk.

 

Janine

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Loss

Nala, Jack and Max as puppies visIting Janet and Jere Scott at the Lodge


I should be writing today to talk about our babies who need diapers and wipes, because we have kicked off our 2020 amazon Diaper Drive, but I can’t.  I need to tell you about the loss that we felt this week, and it wasn’t just our beloved Doberman whom we lost, it was much more than that. 

 

For those of you who have lost a pet, you know the heartbreak and sorrow that comes.  We have lost many pets over the years, and to tell you the truth, I still have most of their ashes in containers out in the garage (don’t judge). They have moved from Canada to the US to Eswatini, and I just can’t seem to get them in the ground, or sprinkled.

 

When we first moved to Eswatini our friends, the VanWyk’s, gave us a Jack Russell Terrier as a house warming gift. They told us that he would become a critical member of the family because the Jack Russell dogs will always alert the family when there is a snake around.  Welcome home Jack! And believe me, Jack did his job well with a higher-than-normal pitched bark when there was a snake around. We could swear that he was shouting “SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE!” until someone came to help.  A few days after Jack’s arrival, Ian and Spencer arrived home with Max, the sweet little Doberman puppy, who turned in to a giant Doberman who terrified Swazi’s while keeping us safe.

Jack

We were further advised that we should load up on dogs because we would lose them to snakes frequently, so we should always have puppies on the way.  Next, we got Nala, the most beautiful mixed breed boerboel, followed closely by Twende (Swahili word for “come”), whom Ian thought we might breed with Max.  Suffice it to say that we had a LOT of dog, and they were still just puppies. 

 

Twende, Nala and Max

A few months after everyone was settling in, a snake came and bit Nala.  We didn’t see the snake, but we have all kinds of deadly poisonous snakes here from black mambas to spitting cobras, to the deadly green boomslang and giant pythons.  That night we lost my beloved Nala, while Chloe and I watched her die a horrific death that took hours of pain and suffering until she succumbed to the poison.  Ian and Spencer were away, but Jere and Janet Scott came to help, Anthony, Denis and William tried their best, but with no vet available she let out her last cry for help, and died in our garage.

 

Twende had been moved down to the farm because she wasn’t a very smart dog, and was causing trouble at our house. She got pregnant and gave birth to puppies, only to be bitten by a snake while nursing the puppies. Twende died the day after Nala did. 

 

I decided at that time that I had to change my view of dogs and had to stop seeing them as pets, but rather as protectors.  My mom gave me two purebred boerboel puppies for my 50th birthday, and I will admit that while I do like them, I have kept them away from my heart as best as possible.  We named the girls "Georgia" and "Tai" in honor of where Spencer and Chloe were living (Georgia and Taiwan).  Max and Jack remained the “two best friends that anybody ever had”, with Jack being at Max’s side in all battles, protecting him from many snakes and a few Swazi’s who have slashed him with a bush knife (long story). Those two had already found a secure place in my heart.  It was too late to change that.

 

Georgia and Tai


Last month we suddenly saw two large masses on Max. One the size of a grapefruit under his front leg, and one the size of a lemon on his chest.  After some experiments with antibiotics and steroids, we asked the vet what he thought, and he told us it was most likely cancer. With our borders to South Africa closed, there was no way to even test or treat him.  We prayed for the best, but his health started to fail quickly. He self-isolated (very COVID-19 of him), stopped eating and drinking, and this past Monday we had to put him down. We drove him to the vet, wh

o administered his cocktail in the back of Ian’s truck, and then we drove Max back to the farm and buried him near Nala.

 

In a country where people are dying of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, COVID-19, oh, and starvation still, it’s hard to think about the pain of losing a dog as being acceptable. But we wept. I had such a visceral response to this loss that I felt sick, exhausted and disoriented. After of day of mourning I realized that it wasn’t just the best dog that we have ever had (sorry Jack), who we lost, but it was the loss of fellowship with others due to border closures, the loss of society as we once knew it, the loss of safety in world politics and the loss of the expectation of safety in global public health. 

 

Personally, it was the loss of not being able to go to Cape Town, as planned, to celebrate Spencer’s proposal of marriage to Jane. It was the loss of the planned event of Chloe having her birthday cake with the Project Canaan kids last Sunday, and her boyfriend seeing the farm for the first time. It was the loss of not being able to just run to South Africa for some mental health days, and rest, which is a tool that we have become dependent on while working in the mission field. 

 


The losses that we are mourning, through the loss of our beautiful Max, seems to be inconsolable and suffocating.  Time will help us heal, but the scab gets ripped of my heart every day when I see Jack cry out for his buddy Max, and continue searching for him around the yard.  This too shall pass.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

And I really do need you to buy diapers and wipes on our amazon list, because we have 150+ children who use them day and/or night.  Thank you for sharing and shopping at https://bit.ly/hfadiaperdrive2020


Live from Eswatini …  praying for the hole in my heart to heal.

 

Janine

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Buy a t-shirt, feed a child. #sharehope




We have been working on a Hunger Initiative, that will help us feed starving children seven days a week, rather than just on the weekend as we have been doing before.  This is more critical now than ever with schools closed, and schools being the place where most children get their only meal each day.  We hope to raise funds to build proper cooking structures, complete with a storage room that allows our churches to store food and supplies for two weeks between deliveries, but with churches in the US and Canada closed, and with all the uncertainty of COVID-19, we have not been able to get the project off the ground the way we had hoped. BUT we are moving the project forward, first by building a model cooking structure on Project Canaan.

 

The building has two sides, one where the two women will be hired to cook the food, and the other will provide locked storage for the food that we deliver every two weeks.  This includes MannaPack from Feed My Starving Children, hard boiled eggs from our layer barn, and a new dried food product (beans/ dried vegetable soup mix) that we recently received from Gleanings for the Hungry in California.

 


Ian has always wanted to feed our farm workers who make a minimal wage, but do back breaking work all day in the fields, through extreme heat and cold. With funds received from a friend in Hawaii, we were able to build the first cooking structure, right on Project Canaan, which allowed us to work out the bugs, so to speak, buy the right sized pots, and think about what message we can put on the side of the building to brighten it up and inspire our workers and the children who will be eating at the church feeding centers.  I am always thankful for Ian’s drone photos, and his ability to help a sister out with putting graphics on the side electronically to show what we hope this will look like.

 


We need a lot of help to feed a lot of starving children. You can feed a child for one month by ordering our new Share HOPE t-shirt today at  https://khutsala.com/search?q=Share+hope+shirt  If you want more information about building a cooking structure at one of our church partners, or having your church or community group partner with a church in Eswatini, please contact hannah@heartforafrica.org. 


I also wanted to let you know that the UNITY Collection bracelets and earrings have arrived at the warehouse in Michigan and are ready to ship, so please buy a beautiful piece of handcrafted jewelry from Eswatini that can help inspire a conversation while supporting African artisans.  You can find the collection athttps://khutsala.com/collections/unity-collection


Happy 4th of July to all of our US friends and family!

Live from Eswatini … we are going for a walk with the kids.

 

Janine

Saturday, June 27, 2020

What do you do with 200+ children when schools are closed?

The school year in most African schools starts at the end of January and ends at the end of November.  When COVID-19 struck the world, and schools were forced to close, the Project Canaan Academy also had to close, which meant that 200+ of our children didn’t finish their first term and there is no end in sight to the school closings.  

 

Even though our children all live on Project Canaan and the school is also on Project Canaan, it would be very dangerous, legally, to open our schools and run the risk of being reported to the police.  Our head teacher, Amber, our Program Director, Bryan, along with our staff and other volunteers have done a really great job of creating educational programing so that our kids don’t lose the learning that they gained. We will focus on tutoring in the weeks to come, but for the past couple of weeks we decided to have life lessons as a part of their education.  I thought you might enjoy hearing and seeing about some of their adventures.



Our older kids took turns with their first sleep-overs at the Swazi homestead.  While some of the kids were really excited about it, others complained that there was no electricity, no heaters, no bed and no TV!  Our Swazi staff was very quick to explain that none of them grew up with electricity, heaters, beds or TV’s!   The kids are learning how to cook over an open water, heat up water to bathe, sweep the yard and sleep on a grass mat.  They even discovered a couple of graves that are right near the cooking structure (one baby and one adult), which is all part of learning about the culture.  All in all, each evening has been a huge success.  Early this morning I learned that the boys had hiked up to the cross and were praying for protection from COVID-19 for Project Canaan, Eswatini and the world.



When our children turn 6-years-old their birthday gift is a trip to Hlane Game Reserve to see the animals on a game drive. We typically wait until we have visitors for those trips so that both our visitors and children get an extra special day.  With borders closed and no visitors in sight we decided to take a group of kids and staff for their special birthday gift. They learned about the lions and elephants, saw interesting plant life and, as always, enjoyed the long ride on our school bus.




Table manners have always been an important part of the Maxwell household (just ask Spencer and Chloe!) and it is equally important to us that our Project Canaan children have good table manners. Even if they are eating with their fingers, as Swazi’s often do, they need to learn how to do it properly.  They have been practicing good table manners at home and this week were rewarded by being able to go to the Nkonyeni restaurant to practice eating outside the home. Everyone passed with flying colors and the Nkonyeni staff commented on how well behaved our children were. Well done team!


We have been hosting different houses up to our fire pit to talk about choices; what is a good choice and what is a bad choice? What happens when you make a good choice and what happens when you make a bad choice? The conversation ends with having to choose which type of chocolate bar they want to eat.  Each Emseni house comes up on their own and the conversations have been as enlightening as they are hilarious.  As reported to us after the first visit, River was keeping all the boys up in E2 after their lights were out and they were supposed to be sleeping. But he was just too excited from the visit to our house and the chocolate. When Auntie Sakhile went in to scold the boys for the second time for making too much noise, she asked River why he was talking so much when he was supposed to be sleeping.  His answer was, “Sorry Auntie, I made a bad choice.”   Well, someone was listening!

In the midst of chaos and uncertainty, I hope you are encouraged and that these photos and stories brought a smile to your face.  Below is a photo of what is bringing a smile to my face today, and what has made this blog late being posted.


Live from Eswatini … we are getting our hair cut in our own home!

Janine