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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Coming to a location near you?

Ian and I are on a 30-day journey across the US and Canada sharing with anyone who has ears to hear about what is happening in the tiny Kingdom of Eswatini. This is a trip we take each year and while we thoroughly enjoy visiting with old friends and family, eating in favorite and new restaurants and updating all of our devices with high speed internet (!), the gap between our life in Africa and life in America only gets wider.

During a gathering the other night I found myself telling a story about one of our babies that had jaws drop and eyes bug open. I was, perhaps somewhat haphazardly, sharing the history of our little 11-month-old baby girl whose mother recently tried to strangler her to death in during a state of drunkenness.  My point was to tell everyone how absolutely adorable this little girl is and how much she loves, and responds to Ian. But the story of joy got lost along the way when I told them how she had been left on the ground since birth and it was only other children in the homestead who would pick her up when she cried and tie her on to their backs. The baby was absolutely terrified of adults and also had to come down from alcohol addiction when she first came to us.

I realize after being in Georgia for the past few days how “common” these stories are to us and how “normal” it is to tell a story about babies found in outdoor toilets or how flippant I can sound tossing out an update on a child who has been badly burned (intentionally or unintentionally) at a dinner party.  At times, I fear that I sound insensitive or at the very least, casual about it all. But that is not what is in my heart. While I may be telling a horrific story of a child’s past, my heart and head are at the end of the story that is filled with joy and hope.  While I must share the nature of a baby being found on the side of a river with river crabs having eaten his anus (requiring a colostomy), my heart and head think of the big smile that I receive every time I see the boy and the joy in his eyes when he runs up to give me a big hug.
As of today, we have 251 children who have been placed with us by the Social Welfare department of Eswatini to love back to life.  Each child has their own unique history and personality, and each one will have their own successes and challenges, and that is why it is so important for us to have people like you helping us.  We can’t do this alone.  It takes a very large village to raise these children and we are so very thankful for each and every person who supports us with words of encouragement, love, prayers and with financial gifts.

If you live in the Atlanta, Vancouver, Nashville, Toronto or Ottawa area and would like to come and hear about our lives in Africa, the children whom we love or the people whom we serve. For dates in the US click here. For dates in Canada click here

I am excited to report that both Chloe and Spencer will be with us at our Toronto events on November 9th and 10th so please be surto come and see them and say hi!

If you would like to sponsor one of our 251 children on a monthly basis, please do so today. We appreciate your love and support.

Live from Alpharetta, Georgia … I am a bit jetlagged.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three babies and three stories you will never forget

Baby Lewis arrived

This week we received our 250th baby. How did that happen? 250 children have been placed with us by the Social Welfare department of the Kingdom of Eswatini and we are here to love them back to life and then raise them to be the future of this nation. 

At times it is overwhelming, but being overwhelmed doesn’t help save lives, so we just have to put our heads down and get to work.

Baby Lewis (#250) arrived on Thursday and I was so busy I didn’t get a chance to post his arrival, and then yesterday we got a call about another child in desperate need, so today I will share their stories with you as we celebrate their lives.  I hope you will never forget these children.

Baby Lewis is 2-months-old and came to us from a very sad situation, with both mother and father being mentally disabled.  My friend Eileen (Lewis) Habelow went with me up the mountain to the homestead with the Social Welfare officer and found the baby (who had been left alone at home for hours) lying in a pool of his own urine and feces, hungry and screaming.  We quickly got him out of his soaked clothing, gave him a nice warm bottle and soon he was cooing in my arms. 

We got home and gave thanks for this little guy and then suddenly realized that he was baby #250!  We needed to celebrate!  I called Lisa in our US office and asked her to pull together a graphic that celebrated our 250th child arriving.  But before I could get the image posted, another child arrived.

Baby Asande arrived yesterday. Burned and hurting.  His mother abandoned him with a woman who is completely blind. She became blind after her husband beat her badly because she couldn’t give him a child, causing a serious injury to her head causing the blindness.  That same man is the father to Asande (from another woman), and he told his wife he would kill her if she didn’t’ care for the baby.  Earlier this week she accidently spilled boiling water on the boy, burning his torso and arm very badly.   Social welfare had been involved with this case for many months, but this time intervened and removed the child to save his life and placed him with us. He will turn 2-years-old this month, and arrived just under our 2-year-old cut off AND gets his very first birthday cake.  Another tragic situation that will turn to triumph. 

On Monday we received a little girl whom we are calling Tilly. She is 11-months-old and is absolutely terrified of adults. For days she has been inconsolable and we assumed it was a combination of coming down from alcohol addiction (her mother is an alcoholic and was nursing her), and severe physical abuse (her mother tried to strangle and kill her last weekend).  But we have since learned that this baby was being raised by children, and adults only hurt her when they were around. We discovered this when one of our Aunties took her out to see the toddlers, trying to get her to stop crying one day.  She immediately calmed down and looked around for a face that she knew. She saw our 2-year-old Mollie and tried to get on Mollie’s back to be carried. What a heartbreaking sight for everyone to see.  Slowly she is starting to trust the “big people” around her, and yesterday Ian was even able to hold her for a moment before she screamed, but it was progress indeed.  We do think that it was women who abused her most.

Some days are harder than others, but when I think I am having a bad day, all I have to do is think about any of these three children and I see how blessed I am and that God has called me to be a part of their lives. 

If you have read this far, I am asking you to consider making a one-time gift in celebration of our 250th (and 251st) child.  Would you give $25?  $250 $2,500 or maybe even $25,000 to help us be able to save the next child who is burned, broken or abandoned?  We are willing to do the heavy lifting here, but can’t do it without an ever-growing family of supporters around the world.  Also, please share this blog with friends and family and on your social media platforms. Help us get the word out that there are children in Eswatini who desperately need help. 


Thank you for praying for us and with us.  It takes a village to raise a child, and a really large village to raise 251+. 

Live from Eswatini … I am going to see my three new little ones.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Oh, how times have changed … and so have I.

Walking out after our wedding ceremony ... what were those kids thinking!?

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary, and I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on how things have changed over the years.   I’ll try not to bore you!

Last night we went to our new soccer field at sundown, took our fold-out chairs and just sat and looked over the fields.  It’s our new Friday night “fun activity”, and we love it.  The farm workers were leaving for home, scores of birds were dancing and singing in the sky and we could hear the sounds of the children playing outside up at the Emseni Campus.

Oh, how times have changed.

When I was 24-years-old I started ONYX Marketing Group in Toronto, and for 16 years I felt defined by my role as President and Founder of that company.  My identity was completely wrapped up in my company, being one of very few women around the world to own a Marketing Agency in the 1980’s.  And then my life flipped upside down after being in New York City on September 11, 2001.  That day, and the days/weeks/months that followed forced me to examine what I was living for, and what I was doing with my life.  That self-examination lead to a major change in our lives, which eventually led us to living in Africa. And as I sit and write this blog I am overlooking a farm, carved out of African bush, and this is home.

We've got beets!
Last night as we sat listening to the sounds of the farm, thinking back on the last 28 years, we realized that the first 14 years of our married life we both worked at ONYX and the last 14 years has been spent in ministry.  I am no longer defined by my business days, but I can clearly see how our business days worked to prepare us for our calling in Eswatini.

I remember when we were first called to Heart for Africa thinking that I had NO skill sets that would be useful in a poverty and AIDS stricken country in Africa.  The Swazi people didn’t need a marketing person, they needed food, clothing, jobs and hope.  I was certainly not the person for that!  I was a self-centered, capitalist who liked nice hotels, expensive restaurants and room service 😁 . 

But the Lord has changed me. Don’t get me wrong, I still like those things, but I would much rather be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, loving the unloved or helping people earn an income so that they can care for their families.  It’s simply amazing what can happen when we really surrender and stop focusing all of our energy on our needs, our desires, our hopes and our dreams and starting thinking about others.  It’s a paradigm shift, and it is life-changing, life-saving and life-giving.

Today Ian and I are going to spend the day together just “doing life”.  We will make the one-hour drive to town to buy some groceries, go out for lunch, come back and hang out with some toddlers on a scorching hot African day.  Then we will throw some steaks on the grill and watch the sun set, again. 

I am so thankful for the past 28 years with my best friend. We have gone through intense joy and extreme sorrow, seen both hope and hopelessness, planted seeds and fought fires, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Life is an adventure, and I am so thankful for the most amazing partner that I get to do life with. 

I thought I would leave you with a few life lessons that I have learned in my 28 years of marriage.  Maybe they will be helpful, and maybe not. 

-       Laugh a lot.
-       Apologize a lot.
-       Forgive and ask for forgiveness a lot.
-       It’s okay to go to bed angry, just make sure you deal with it in the morning when you are rested.
-       Don’t ever say, “I don’t think I want to have children because they are too much responsibility” (!)
-       If your husband says, “Hey, I think we should buy 2,500 acres of land in Africa” – just go with it.

Live from Eswatini … loving life with Ian Maxwell.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

We have figured out how to make snowmen in Africa! ☃️

Khutsala Artisans is an incredibly important part of the Project Canaan Ministry because it employs 100+ people, who in turn are providing for 1,000+ people from their wages.  While we make and sell dozens of different 3D animals, keychains, and lots of SwaziMUD jewelry (handmade ceramic beads), it is our annual Christmas tree ornament that is our biggest seller of the year.

This year our ornament is the CUTEST little snowman, complete with a red scarf made from authentic Swazi fabric.  And of course, we made a larger decoration to sit on your mantle and match the ornament.  

So now we need to sell them all!  I am looking for 20 people TODAY to become Khutsala Brand Ambassadors and commit to selling 50 ornaments each (snowman or an assortment of any of our ornaments).  They are all in our warehouse in Michigan and ready to ship to you next week!  You would be surprised how many people post the ornaments on their social media pages and sell 50 to 100 within hours!

Our ornaments are only $12 each and make a perfect gift for anyone on your list, plus you are helping employ Swazi’s with all the profit going back to help provide for our 248 children. Will you be a Khustala Ambassador this year?  If yes, please email me at or and we will get you set up!  

We also have a really great fundraising program through Khutsala where we can make customized keychains (or ornaments) for your school, club, sports team or even your next missions trip!  The photos below are two examples of custom work that we have done recently.  It’s an easy and fresh way to raise money without selling high calorie snacks!

This past week we also worked on a beautiful beaded poinsettia bowl, and so while we haven’t made any yet I thought I would show it to you today to see if anyone likes them and would buy one?  It’s 9” wide x 2.4" high and will retail for $45. If you are interested in ordering one (or more), please email me directly at and I will bring them back with me when we head to the US/Canada in October.

We need your support more than ever with so many jobs on the line.  Will you shop at Khutsala today or become a Khutsala Ambassador?  THANK YOU!

Live from Eswatini … laughing that we are making snowmen in Africa!


Saturday, September 21, 2019

The heart of Project Canaan is pumping again

Many people think that Project Canaan is all about our children, but some of us would disagree with that.  Project Canaan is so much more than a home for orphaned and abandoned children, it is truly a place of hope in many other ways.

When the drought hit in 2016 the country was devastated.  We had to suspend our farming initiative and I distinctly remember all of the irrigation drip tape being rolled up from the fields and the pipes being put away. It was very depressing.  We had just finished building the greenhouse where we had planned to start a hydroponics program, but there wasn’t even enough water to do that, and so it sat empty.  It wasn’t until our friend Billy Nolan from North Point Community Church asked if we had heard of Aquaponics (which we hadn’t) that we were able to at least start working on that project while we waited for rain and started the monster project of bringing water from the top of our mountain.

While the rains have not yet come, we are now water secure and we have been able to fill our dams, roll out the irrigation drip tape and start planting crops again.  Our greenhouse is full to overflowing with all the tomatoes/cucumbers/peas/red peppers and broccoli that we can eat (and sell).  The aquaponics system is providing us fresh tilapia fish and all different types of organic lettuce that we serve every day. It’s simply wonderful.

Ian checking out the newly planted beet root
But when I say that the heart of Project Canaan is beating again, it is the whole agriculture part of the farm that I am referring to.  We live on a farm, and when nothing is growing on a farm it is disheartening and depressing for all.  The farm is the heartbeat of Project Canaan and while there is a buzz throughout the project as everyone sees the spinach and cabbage flourishing in the fields, it is the rows and rows of beet root that has got everyone talking.

Who would think that beet root would be something that we talk about every day?  I sure didn’t. In fact, Ian is down in the greenhouse and fields multiple times a day to oversee this incredible new crop. We have hired a Farm Consultant from Zimbabwe and he is an expert in his field (and now in our fields 😂) and he is passionate about all things agriculture.   We have a customer who will buy as much beet root as we can produce, so we are planting 150,000 beet root seeds every two weeks in the green house.  They live in the greenhouse for three weeks and then they get moved outside for a week to “harden”, then they get planted in the fields.

We planted our first 150,000 seedings this week and will plant another 150,000 in two weeks. We will start harvesting the beets in eight weeks and then “double crop” the field by preparing and replanting it again.  In the next 12 months we will produce and sell more than 1,100 tons of fresh beet root, which will help feed the country, and also help generate income for Project Canaan.

In addition to this, the beet greens (tops of the beets which are extremely high in nutritional value) will be cut off and distributed to our church partners to add to our child feeding program, providing extra nutrition to children around the country.

The heart of Project Canaan is beating again, and this would not be possible without the 9.5 KM (6 miles) of piping which brings water from the top of our mountain.  Without water security we would not been able to risk the investment for the beet root with the knowledge that the rains still may not come.

Water isn’t just for the crops though, it’s for our swimming pools!!! Now that we have lots of water, and summer has arrived, the pools are open and our sprinklers on on!!  I just had to throw in a cute video and couple of photos for your enjoyment.

Live from Eswatini … water is life.


Saturday, September 14, 2019

What did my mom and Ian have in common?

Planting banana trees in honor of my mom.
Tomorrow is Ian’s 54th birthday. It would have been my mom’s 88th birthday if she were still alive. But that's not all they had in common.

As I sit and write this blog I am looking out over the Project Canaan farm and thinking of these two very special people in my life and how they have impacted my life, and so many others – my mom and Ian.

My mom was a fearless genius, a brilliant pharmacist, a renaissance woman, and a stubborn/tireless advocate. She would have LOVED everything about Project Canaan, especially the impossibility of the whole thing.  She would have wanted to be covered in grease trying to fix the bulldozer, but then she would have been researching how to get better yields of tilapia in the aquaponics system. She would have reorganized our pharmacy and tried to find medications around the world that aren’t available here and then she would have been finding new varieties of vegetables for our fields.  Her surname was “Willis” and there was a family play on the saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way” that said,  “Where there’s a Willis, there’s a way”.  That was my mom.

My mom was also a mighty woman of faith and trusted in the Lord for everything.  I remember seeing my first miracle on her couch in the livingroom above the drugstore where we lived.  One of her friends was born with one leg several inches shorter than the other, causing a significant limp and pain. My mom was a “new Christian” and read that Jesus healed the lame, so she laid hands on her friend and prayed for her friend’s leg to grow so that she would no longer limp and be in pain.  I saw that leg grow with my own eyes, and I saw my mom jump up and down and shriek, cry and rejoice!  Her friend never limped again (but did have “growing pains” for a few days after the healing).
Mom with Spencer on his 1st Christmas.
My mom’s faith was unwavering and she taught me to believe in a God who never failed.

In that way, Ian is very much like my mom.  His faith is unwavering, and I see that every single day. AND he is really excited about the unknown and the adventure of learning.

For those of you who don’t know Ian personally, he is a very humble man who models grace, wisdom and hard work for those around him.  He loves to learn and is the first to admit that he knows nothing about many things that he is working on, but he is also the first to buy a book about butchering to learn how to carve up a cow or read the latest book on bees to learn how to get our Aviary back up and running.  He loves to learn like my mom did and I love that about him.

Hundreds of thousands of beet root seedlings preparing for the field.

Making our own minced beef after slaughtering a cow.
Ian is also a man of faith and believes in a God who answers prayer.  And why wouldn’t he?  He knows that it is impossible for us (Ian and Janine Maxwell) to start a farm in the middle of a tiny Kingdom in Africa and then rescue 247 orphaned or abandoned babies and commit to raising them to adulthood.  We didn’t know anything about farming, construction or growing fruit trees, but Ian had faith that God would send people who did and now we have field crops as well as hydroponics and aquaponics, we have built 63 buildings, and we have an orchard of avocadoes, papayas and have cleared land for a banana grove!

Ian is my rudder.  He is the calm in my storm.  He makes me laugh and consoles me when I cry.  But more importantly his faith is a constant reminder to me that God is in control, that He loves us and He is our provider. 

Will you join me in celebrating Ian’s life by buying him a banana tree for our new banana grove?  They are only $12.00!  That’s the best birthday gift ever because they will provide fresh fruit for years to come!

Tomorrow is also the birthday of our children Moses, Robert and Bernice so if you would like to buy them banana tree for their birthday or if you would like to buy one in memory of my mom, please click on the links below. Thank you!

In the US click here.

In Canada click here.

Live from Eswatini … banana pudding will soon be on the menu!


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Don't worry about it.

These 1-year-olds don't have a worry in the world. They are safe. They are loved.
Last Saturday I wrote about a 2-year-old baby girl named Isabelle, who has suffered more in her short life than anyone should in a lifetime.  You can read her story by clicking here.  I am thankful for the 797 people who read the blog, and most certainly thankful for all of the prayers, but I’m a bit surprised that not a single person signed up to sponsor her, not even for $10/month.  I understand that many of you already sponsor children and/or have other charities that you support, but I fear that my stories have become repetitive. This child has suffered terribly and that child is burned badly and this one was dying of starvation – maybe it getting old?  Maybe we are all becoming desensitized to the pain and suffering in the world. Maybe God just has a different plan for her life?  What I do know is that I am not to worry about it.

There seems to be a lot of fear and worry in our midst these days. How will we pay the bills? How will we continue to fund the organization when we keep getting so many babies? When will we have to start turning away children in need?  Ian and I are very human, and we get hurt and we get tired, but what we can not allow ourselves to do is start to worry about how the Lord is going to provide for His children.  We need to be still. We need to ask Him for direction and we need to wait patiently for His direction, and then go when and where He says to go.  And he has never NOT provided. He has never abandoned us or left us in need, and He reminded me that He made Isabelle and He know exactly what she needs.

I put on my Spotify before I started to write this blog and the song “Way maker” by Leeland started to play.  It is just what I needed to hear. The words that soothed my soul, and brought tears to my eyes say:

Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who you are
Way maker
Miracle worker
Promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who you are

And then I remembered my friends Cheryl Lucas, Seth Condrey and Sarah Windham singing that very song on Project Canaan in July, and it was magic.  The Holy Spirit was palpable that morning on the mountainside in the tiny, broken, hurting Kingdom of Eswatini.  Below is a short snippet of their powerful song.

What are you afraid of today? What are you worried about? What is keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep?  Matthew does a bit of a slap down to followers of Jesus who are afraid and worry.  Let’s see what he says in this Message bible translation and see if it might help.  

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.  Matthew 6:25-34

Drop the mic.

Live from Pretoria, South Africa … taking a little break.