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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday morning dance party to end a full week

This week was just a fun week all around. Our Khutsala Artisans continue to create new items adding fabulous tassel earrings to our list of new products available this week , the 140+ children attending our own Project Canaan Academy are working hard at school and our babies just bring me joy every time I go and see them. This short video is Poppy making her way to bed for "lala" or nap time. She is very proud of herself that she can now crawl.

For those of you who have never been to Project Canaan, it was simply BUSH when we bought the 2,500 acre piece of land in 2009.  There were no roads, no electricity, no water (or river), no fields and no buildings.  Since then we have built 30 miles of road, 60+ buildings, three dams, four 500,000L water tanks with 10+ miles of piping, homes for children/staff/volunteers, schools, vocational training centers, a medical clinic, a dairy, greenhouse and egg laying barns.  We have been working on an aerial video to TRY to capture all that has been done as we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and today I would like to share it with you!  Please go to and get a tour of the property and get an idea of the scope of this exciting project. I promise you will love what you see.

This week we also started digging the foundation for Emseni #5, which is the dorm for girls that we need to build urgently in order to move our big girls up and make space for our ever growing family. Project Canaan is currently home for 225 orphaned or abandoned children, and we are committed to them until they are 21-years-old.  Our youngest is 4-weeks-old and our oldest children are 8-years-old.   If you would like to participate in this project, you can buy a block (or 10 or 100?) to help us get this building funded and built quickly. We are bursting at the seams! A block can also be a great birthday gift for the person who has everything.  Please check out our link here and buy a block today.

This morning, before writing this blog, we had a Saturday morning dance party and it was SO MUCH FUN!  All 136 children who live at the Emseni Campus came down to dance with the 40 children who live at the toddler home and together these 176 children danced to one of their favorite songs together.  The file is too large for me to load here, but you can see a live video feed of it on the Heart for Africa Facebook page or video on my personal Facebook page if we are friends. In the short video below you can see babies in the background watching the kids rehearse their dance.

This was a great week filled with the usual challenges, the usual disappointments and heartbreak, but also the never-ending joy that comes with total surrender and being exactly where we are supposed to be.

Live from eSwatini … happy Saturday!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Something has shifted

Photo credit: Bryan Throgmorton
A few months ago I was contacted by a Pastor in the US who wanted to know if we would like a 30 foot high cross planted somewhere on Project Canaan.  They were going to give it to us for free and come and install it, so I said “YES!”.  I didn’t think much more about it until Monday when I realized that Pastors Bill and Carol from Christian Cross Ministries would be here on Friday and we needed to choose a place for the cross.

I met with a few people to get their thoughts and then Bryan and Allen started to slash their way through the bush up a mountain to find the “perfect spot” for the giant cross.  Nothing is easy here, nor was that climb, but once they reached the desired spot Denis and his team went in and cut a path, carried the 550 pound (250 KG) steel cross up the mountain and prepared for the “planting” on Friday.  It was just one more thing on my list of things to do, and I was thankful to have a team of people to do all the heavy lifting (pardon the pun).

It was another hot and sunny day in eSwatini as we made our way up the mountain and then something changed. This “to do list” item became a profoundly important moment in time, ten years after we first stepped foot on the land.  

We are building a traditional Swazi homestead at the bottom of the mountain where our children can continue to learn about their culture, cook over an open fire, sleep under a grass roof and even grind maize. The cross is located above where this homestead is being built and  as I thought about this, I had a sense that something shifted. It’s hard to explain, but it was as if another declaration was being made over the land. We officially dedicated Project Canaan to God in 2009, but putting this cross up, with the blue sky shining and our Primary School children, teachers, volunteers and maintenance crew in attendance went beyond the words “powerful and moving”.  The Swazi homestead represents a new beginning for our children and perhaps this tiny Kingdom and the cross is a reminder of what a new beginning really is all about for all of us.

Painting of the Swazi homestead courtesy of talented Melissa Trivisonno!
I have no idea why God chose Ian and I for this task, but words cannot express how my heart feels knowing that we are fulfilling the calling that He has on our lives. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I were not here.

Speaking of how my heart feels, let me give you a short Nokuphiwa story that will bring you joy!  (If you don’t know who she is please read last weeks blog at ) 

Nokuphiwa has not gone for surgery yet, and is still having testing done and meetings with various doctors. This past week she was invited to an event for children who have been burned, hosted by the Boston Fire Department in conjunction with Shriners hospital.  The kids were learning to paint and when she came out of the building she proudly showed everyone her very first painting.

“What is it?”  I asked. 

I was told that she painted a dolphin diving in the ocean, and written in the clouds is her name.  Think about that for a moment. Here are a group of children, all who have been burned, gathering for an afternoon of painting, and this child from the deep bush in Swaziland paints a dolphin swimming in the ocean.  It is as profound to me as the cross on our mountain top. 

Something has shifted, or maybe it's just me.

Live from Swaziland … I stand in awe of His goodness and mercy.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Nokuphiwa (No-koo-pee-wah)

Nokuphiwa and her BFF Mona Lisa - sweetest photo of all time?
I have never met someone like Nokuphiwa. She is the little burned girl I have mentioned in a few blogs in the past couple of months and I would like to officially introduce you to her today.  She was burned in a house fire when she was only 5-days-old and has suffered with no treatment until today, and she is now 8-years-old. (If you want to read more about Nokuphiwa’s burn story go to

Nokuphiwa left for Boston this past week where she will receive reconstructive surgery at Shriners Hospital in Boston, in partnership with our friends at the Global Medical Relief Fund.  She was accompanied by Nokwanda (from hospitality department at Project Canaan) and Barry Hickman (our friend and husband of Canadian HFA Board member, Carol Hickman) who flew all the way to eSwatini from British Columbia, Canada to escort the two gals to the US as neither had been on an airplane before.

When I first heard about Nokuphiwa I knew that we had to do something to help, but was very uncertain about how to do it without disrupting (or frankly, scaring) our own children who have already been through so much.  Together with our amazing staff, we worked on a plan (read past blog above) and brought her to live with us back in early December.

Within a single day she was the pied piper of Project Canaan with almost all the children loving her immediately (some of the older boys took a bit longer to see past the scars to her heart), and soon loved by all.  Allen, one of our Sr. Supervisors said, “She is like a Princess who finally found her people”.  And what a true statement that is.

Nokuphiwa is pure joy.  She cares for the underdog and scolds a bully.  She dances and sings like no one is watching, but everyone is!  Honestly, it is as if she doesn’t know she was burned. She is perfect, and beautiful and confident and made in His image, and she knows it. She is not ashamed of how she looks and is quick to take off her hat for photos so you can see her full smile (with no lips). 

Nokuphiwa is missing a piece of her skull that should be protecting a main artery in her head. You can see her heart beat through the skin on her skull. The Doctors in Boston have also identified a “leak” up above her where her eyebrow should be. While Nokuphiwa RARELY cries, when she does, that spot “leaks”. They did a CT scan on Friday to assess her skull issues, and also they are looking to see if the leak is from a mis-directed tear duct?  The whole in her skull and the leak are the two priorities for now. Then further plans will be made.

I have been very careful to not post photos of her face for her privacy sake, but I am going to do so today so that you, the reader, can see where she is starting her surgical journey and you will be able to follow along and pray with us for her. am also posting a video that was sent to me yesterday from Nokwanda. It brought me to tears (again).  But I only cry tears of joy for this little girl because SHE IS JOY.

The first thing I want to show you is Nokuphiwa singing a song yesterday.  Nokwanda sent it to me last night and it’s Nokuphiwa (who didn’t want to learn English, but seems to be learning it) singing “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me”.  I am posting this so that you can see her joy, her authenticity and her personality. I don’t think I would be singing “God is so good” as an 8-year-old if I had been living with a burned head for all of my life. Would you?


Now … you HAVE to read this next part!

The girls are being hosted by our friends Eileen, Joe and Eric Habelow.  When I asked the Habelow’s for the “BIG FAVOR” of hosting two strangers for 3-months while one of the strangers (and a child) underwent life-changing/life-threatening surgery, they prayed about it, talked to their Pastor to get support from their church and then said yes.  THREE weeks before the girls were to arrive at their house, their pipes burst while they were out of town at the Superbowl and it “rained” in their house for days before they got back (to Boston in the dead of winter). They got home to 3.5 feet of water on the top floor and bottom floor of their house and the house looked like a rainforest with water pouring out of ceiling lights, walls and ceilings.  EVERYTHING that they owned was destroyed by water, EXCEPT for all their photos albums and sentimental items. The only wall in the house that was not wet was the one that housed the electrical box, which saved them all from electrocution when they walked through the house testing lights switches. 

In the past three weeks they found a new home to rent, bought furniture, set up house and met Nokuphiwa, Nokwanda and Barry at the airport with more joy and love that can be imagined.  Tear are pouring down my face as I type that. We have done video calls from their house and their car and I just can’t stop crying tears of joy over all that I am seeing happen.  And she hasn’t even started surgery yet! 

Serving God is not easy, but the blessings that come with it are “exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask for or imagine”.  Just ask Eileen and Joe! 

Special send off service last Sunday at church

Praying for the girls before they left

She insisted that I take a photo of her with the RCMP moose that Uncle Barry got her

FAREWELL!!  See you in May!
I LOVE the way she laughs so hard
Their first time seeing snow!

What are you being asked to do today? Who are you supposed to help? Who are you supposed to be a blessing to?  Please don’t hesitate – just do it.

Thank you Barry Hickman for coming and being the escort for both Nokuphiwa and Nokwanda. Thank you Nokwanda for stepping up to be the guardian for this 8-year-old girl from “deep Swaziland” for the next 3- months of grueling surgery.  Thank you Eileen, Joe and Eric for hosting the girls for the next 3-months, for taking them to Doctors appointments, CT scans and Chinese food. 

Live from eSwatini … I LOVE my life.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

You might not believe these photos

In the image above, you will see the baby on the right is 5-week-old Nicholas Vilkati (son to our nurse Hannah).  He weighs 12-pounds and is 21 inches long.

Beside him on the left is baby Lethu who arrived to us last week.  She is 14-months-old and weighs 12-pounds, just like Nicholas. She is a few inches longer, but they are basically the same size.

Below is a photo with a third baby in it and her name is Rejoice. She came to us as a newborn and was born just three days before Lethu, so that photo shows the size that Lethu should be if she had proper nutrition from birth. 

This is classic malnutrition, with stunting associated with it.  According to the WHO, "Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation."  We have a chronic problem in the Kingdom of eSwatini of children not having enough food or not enough nutritious food for proper development. When Lethu came to us last week she had not eaten in days.  It’s hard for most people reading this blog to imagine that, but we are seeing it more and more.

We continue to provide hot meals to thousands of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC’s) through our 30 church partners each month.  Our partnerships with Feed My Starving Children and the International Egg Commission/Foundation make this possible.  But now we are also providing food to other small orphanages, halfway house and social welfare offices so that they have food to give people who come in begging for help.

I wish I could say that things are getting better here, but it seems that they are not.  On Thursday we were in the southern part of the country and drove through river beads that were bone dry, despite the rains we have had lately. 

Below is a chart with some staggering statistics that was presented to a group of stakeholders who are caring for the OVC’s of the nation.

Please join us in praying for this nation, for the children who are suffering and for the young mothers who have to do unfathomable things to provide for their children.

Live from eSwatini … come Lord Jesus, come.


Saturday, February 16, 2019

This week ...

This week we received three babies – two newborns and a 14-month-old who is the size of a 4-month-old, weighing 12 pounds.  One newborn was the result of rape/incest, one newborn came from a severely mentally disabled woman and one from a young lady who lives on the street and her baby was starving to death.
Baby Cheri
This week Rick Cogbill and our Canadian friends from the Mercy Tech Mission were busy training our mechanics, teaching our welders, a millwright is here training on our milling machine and steel lathe and another man is helping put a plan together to fix our roads.

This week Pete Wilkerson, a landscape architect from SCAPES LANDSCAPES in Georgia was here to locate and clear the locations of seven buildings that we will build in the next three years.  He trudged through bush in the rain, directed hand slashing and taught some basic pruning and trimming techniques so that our property looks beautiful.

The clearing at the bottom of the photo is where the next Oasis building will go (Emseni #2 Campus)
This week we had a flock of 2.200 laying hens arrive, which will start laying eggs soon that will be hard-boiled and fed to orphans and vulnerable children throughout the country through our 30 church partners. We also had 3 calves birthed at the dairy.  

This week our Pre-kindergarten class went on a field trip, our toddlers went on walks, and 2.5-year-old, Stephen, took his first few steps (something that we didn’t know would ever happen!).

Our Khutsala Artisans were busy making new product, including beautiful new cardinals and the ever-popular unicorns and Llama keychains, ornaments and 3D animals are underway (you can pre-order for a March delivery at  They are stunning!

This week we kicked off our adult learning sessions for our staff who cannot read or write. There are three different groups; one in the nearby community of Gebeni, one in the nearby community of Sigcineni and one here on PC - all taught by Swazi volunteers from Project Canaan who commit to 6 hours of teaching every week for a whole year!  It is a government program that we are implementing here and it is called Sebenta.

Ncobile is my favorite Sebenta teacher :)
This week was a typical week – lots going on, lots of moving parts, lots of love needed and lots of love received in all of our departments by lots of people.  We now have 222 children living at Project Canaan and they need a lot of love.  February is Child Sponsorship month - will you help us show them love by sponsoring a child this month?  You will be blessed beyond measure.

Live from eSwatini … watching love conquer all.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

The opposite of love is not hate.

Thuli says "Happy Valentine's Day!"
There are only six more days until Valentine’s Day, and I would guess that many of you will be celebrating this weekend.  We too are celebrating love, but in our own unique way. This week we are learning that “Jesus wants to be our friend forever”.  Throughout the Emseni campus you can hear the question being asked, “Who loves me?” with a loud and definitive answer “Jesus loves me!!”   The Kids Club for our younger Emseni children activities include making a beautiful Valentine’s Day card for each Auntie/Uncle and teacher (shhhhh… don’t tell them!!).  The older children are studying 1 Peter 4:10-11 and learning that they should treat others the way they want to be treated.  What a simple concept, and yet one that seems to be so hard for us adults.

Love can heal. Love can soothe. Love can calm. Love can bring forgiveness.  And what about the opposite?

I once heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but rather it is indifference.


Perhaps it’s not always easy to love our family or our friends, but we do it anyway. I don’t think many people would claim to actually hate other people, but have we become indifferent to others outside of our own circle?

Each week thousands of people read my blog or comment on my social media posts, and I know that many people do care, but I often wonder how many people are simply indifferent.  It’s not that you hate what we are doing, or don’t like what we are doing, perhaps you are just indifferent to it?  Maybe you think that if you stay at arms-length, you can remain neutral or even safe?

Today I would like to tell you about another brother and sister duo who need sponsorship.  Their names are Samuel and Samantha and they are biological siblings.  I can’t share much of their early months of life publicly, but I can tell you that their Samuel’s father was an illegal immigrant to eSwatini and we do not have any knowledge of Samantha’s father.  Their mother did not live in a homestead, nor did she have a place to lay her head at night, therefore each child was in danger from the time of their birth until they were placed with us through the Police and Social Welfare. 

We currently have 9 sets of biological siblings (not including 11 sets of twins). If those children arrive at the same time, they are often very bonded because they were often left alone together. In the case of “Sam” and “Sama” (as they are called here) they arrived two years apart and don’t know each other at all.  Either way, we are very intentional to make sure that all biological siblings spend time together every week, see each other at church and always celebrate each other’s birthdays.


Sama turned 4-years-old last week and you can see the sweetest photo of the two of them below. Each child gets to choose a “friend” to walk out to their “growth stick” to get their annual measurement taken. Sama chose her big brother Sam – what a beautiful and meaningful moment that was for us all.

Will you engage with us today and sponsor one of these children, or choose another one on our website?  Would you consider sponsoring a child on behalf of a loved one this Valentine’s day and give the gift of love and life at the same time.

Live from eSwatini … love one another.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

What's love got to do with it?

I realize that my last three blogs have been very heavy, filled with children dying, children infected with HIV and Tuberculosis and just generally bad news, so I thought I would send a lighter message today. (Thanks for sticking with me through the hard ones).

Yesterday we received a sweet little boy who was only 3-days-old.  We are calling him Nathi (pronounced “Nah-tee”).  He comes from a very sad family situation that I cannot share publicly, but suffice it to say that his Grandmother cared enough to intervene and begged Social Welfare for help, and they in turn came to us. We pray that his body will be healed and his life will be changed forever by coming to the El Roi Baby home.

In fact, that is what we pray for all our children when they first arrive, and we have seen sadness turn to joy, brokenness turn to healing and fear turn to peace, all through the power of love.

Today I want to share a “before and after” photo of two children who came to us broken, but are now whole and both children need to be sponsored on a monthly basis.

Meet Jabez and Christine.  Both came in broken, hurting and needing acute medical attention and lots of love.  You can see the pure joy that comes from the depth of their souls in the “after” photo. 
Jabez January 2019

Jabez April 2016
Christine January 2019
Christine May 2015

February is Valentine’s Day month and a month filled with heart-shaped everything. It is a month that we are reminded to love one another and celebrate love.   This morning I had five children come up to me and excitedly remind me that February was also their birthday month, and how many more sleeps until it was their birthday (yes, even Joshua, Michael, Matthew and Malachi who celebrate on February 28th!).   They are oblivious to the money that will be spent on flowers, chocolates, special meals and other lovely gifts this month to celebrate love.   What these children do know is that they are loved each and every day and that they will get a birthday cake on their special day.

Love, medical care and birthday cake all costs money and that is why we specifically focus on Child Sponsorship during the month of February. We have many children who need sponsorship.  Will you consider giving $10 per month?  $30 per month?  $100 per month? Or any amount that you can to help us continue to welcome children to our home on Project Canaan. Perhaps you can choose a child who shares the same name as a loved one and sponsor them in honor of that person?  Or sponsor a child as part of your Valentine's gift to a loved one this year?

I can't thank you enough for YOUR love and support.

Live from eSwatini … praying for child sponsors from all over the world.


PS -  I have heard that some subscribers are no longer getting this blog by email. I had changed the title to "Live from eSwatini" instead of "Live from Swaziland", and it seems to have caused problems. I have changed it back but if you are still not getting it by email, you may need to unsubscribe and subscribe again. Sorry for the inconvenience.