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Saturday, August 17, 2019

I saw trauma on this 1-year-old’s face

In the past seven days we have received five babies – it’s been a busy week.  Three of them have been newborns, one left in the bushes shortly after birth and two born to young women who had no way to care for their babies and no father who would claim paternity.  In fact, late yesterday afternoon we were called for an emergency pick up of a baby who was born only four hours earlier!  Then there was the 18-month-old who was starving to death and was admitted to the hospital for care.  When he was ready for discharge, the family asked that he be placed somewhere there is food and love.  He came to us.

Today I want to tell you about a little guy we are calling Roderick. While his social history “common” here, the trauma that I saw in his young face was very new to me.  I am not a child psychologist or specialist, but I saw what I saw, and I am going to try to explain it to you.

This little boy was abandoned by his mother, often left with strangers for days at a time. The police tell us that she is a known drunkard and a problem in the community. Last week she left her baby boy with someone for more than a week before that “someone” took the child to the police. The police took the child to the hospital and the social workers at the hospital called us.  When I went to pick him up he had no health card, no name, no birthdate, nothing. 

Our nurse Hannah did a full physical and developmental assessment and said he was physically the size of a 5 to 7-month-old baby, but we knew that he was severely malnourished, so taking that in to consideration, along with the developmental assessment, we gave him a birthdate of August 19, 2018, meaning that he is almost 1-year-old.

Roderick (left) is estimated to be a month older than Boaz (right)
We gave him the name of Roderick, and the surname of Dlamini (which is the King’s name and we give all abandoned babies that surname). He is the happiest little guy, smiling at everyone, jabbering in baby talk and eating everything that is in front of him. 

A couple of days after his arrival I was called to say that the police had found his mother and she was in jail. We didn’t get his date of birth, but we did get his name. For today’s blog I will call him Thando.  I went down to the baby home to see if he would know his name if I called it, and what happened shocked me. 

I stood on the side of the table where he was getting an extra mid-day snack (we do that for our underweight children). I didn’t want to speak directly to him as he was always quick to respond to a smiling face.  I was a few feet away and said his name out loud, “Thando”, and that little baby boy burst in to tears – the first tears we had seen since he had arrived to his new home.  The Auntie feeding him soothed him and gave him another bite.  I waited a minute and then said his name again, and again he burst in to tears.  The Supervisors all stopped in their tracks and now all eyes were on this little guy.  Again, the Auntie calmed him, he smiled at her, at me and enjoyed another spoonful of food.  I said his name a third time, and he instantly burst in to tears again.

What had to happen in this little baby boy’s life that would make him cry at the sound of his own name? What words had to be spoken over him and at what audio level that would cause such a guttural reaction?  I can’t even begin to imagine.

I looked at Welile (our Sr. Supervisor) and while she stood with her mouth and eyes wide open at what she had just observed, she said, “we will not be calling him Thando, he will only be Roderick”.

“A United Nations (UN) report suggests that about 71% of Eswatini children under the age of 17 are orphaned and vulnerable due to the impact of HIV and AIDS.” That was the headline of an article sent to me earlier this week – you can read the whole article here:

That statistic seems quite shocking at first, yet reasonable to us based on what we see out in the communities.  The children are starving and the young girls are forced to do whatever they need to do to eat and feed their younger siblings.  The result is unwanted pregnancy and too many abandoned babies.

Last night our newest arrival, baby Armour born at noon yesterday, slept on a change table in Kuthula Place because we had no bed for him.  We had been planning a big “move” on Monday where children move up to their next home, but instead we decided to do it today. 

Baby Armour is a tiny little guy.
Elvis and Ella moved from Kuthula to the El Roi Baby home leaving 11 babies under 6-months living at Kuthula.

Laura, Lisa, Wilson, Thomas and Kelvin moved from El Roi to the toddler home leaving 38 6 to 18- month-old babies there.

Cynthia, Martin, Nella, Philip, Prudence, Nokwanda, William and Ariel moved from the toddler home up to Emseni 1 leaving 40 2-year-olds living at the toddler home.

Jonathan, Shadrach, Justin, Amos, Micah and Jackson all moved from E1 to E2, leaving us with 1 space at E1, 2 spaces in E2 and 3 spaces in E4.  We hope to open E5 in November.

All in all this is a busy place with 244 children who call Project Canaan home. Some days it is overwhelming, but most of the time it is just a joy to serve a mighty God who has called so many people to join our village and raise the next generation of Swazi children.

You know what we need today?  We need you to sponsor a child for whatever amount you are comfortable giving.  Will you consider sponsoring one of these new children who arrived this past week?  THEY need you and we need you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Live from Eswatini … my heart is very full today.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

The chapel built in memory of a father I never knew

Some of you may know that the chapel that burned down in the July 19th fires was built in memory of my father, but what many of you likely don’t know is that it wasn’t the father who raised me (Russell Willis), it was my biological father whom I never met.

Let me explain.

In my blog  I shared the story of my birth in 1963. My mother was a 15-year-old girl who got pregnant by her teenage boyfriend and was sent away to a home for unwed mothers to give birth in secret. To this very day, only her parents (my biological Grandparents) knew that I existed, and the secret died with them.  I am still a secret to the rest of her family.

I am also a secret to my biological father’s family, or at least I was until 10 years ago, when I was 45-years-old.  Through a VERY strange set of “coincidences” I discovered who my biological father was. This was not something I was pursuing or even wanted to know. I was curious, but not curious enough to seek out the information. The information dropped in to my lap, so to speak.  He was murdered, and I went to his funeral, slipping in to the back row so that no one would suspect I was his “love child from another mother” (that was Ian’s line).  Of course they wouldn’t, no one knew, but I was still totally paranoid.  I sat and watched his wife, his children and the rest of his family mourn his loss. It was surreal, and frankly, weird.

Some time later, (I need to be a bit cryptic to maintain his anonymity) I came face to face with my biological father’s sister, and was forced to reveal my identity to her. She and her husband are followers of Jesus, and while my existence was an earth-shattering shock to a family who “had no secrets”, they quickly regrouped and welcomed me in to their immediate family.  This news was not to be shared with others, but we began a relationship that exists to this day.

When I first met my Aunt, Heart for Africa had just purchased the 2,500 acres of land that we now call Project Canaan.  We were building the Farm Manager’s Building (FMB – the first building on the property) and they asked what building was next. We told them that we wanted to build a chapel so that everyone who came to the land would know that we are doing this because we are followers of Jesus, not because we are just “good people” or humanitarians.  Our reason is because HE has asked us to do this, and we are obeying.

My Aunt then told me that she would like to give us the funds to build the chapel, in memory of my biological father, whom I had never met, and who had never acknowledged my existence.  Can you imagine such a gift? And why?

I have said this this many many times … ONLY God can make a baby.  There are many people who have had sex who have not gotten pregnant.  But this teenage couple had sex, got “unlucky” (in their minds) and I was born.  I will not make this a pro-life issue, but I am really thankful that they were not able to abort me in 1963, and I am even more glad for Bernice and Russ Willis who adopted me and raised me in a God-loving home.  It is because of those key turning points in my life that I am here today in the Kingdom of Eswatini, mother to 241 Swazi children. 

So, back to the chapel.  Why would God want my biological father honored in such a way? Why would He then burn down “his house”, ten years later, during a fire that only burned one building out of 63 available buildings?

Why were MANY people emailing me telling me that they were praying for a double blessing, a double portion to be bestowed on us as we work through the time or repairing and rebuilding?

Why would someone from Texas, who has never been to Eswatini or even seen the chapel, make a donation for $40,000 so that we can completely rebuild the chapel and DOUBLE its size?

I don’t have the answers to any of the above questions, but I do see the hand of God in each and every step of this story.  I don’t believe in coincidences, but I do believe in a heavenly Father who loves me even more than my adoptive father or biological father ever could. They are both deceased now and have left me here on earth, but my heavenly Father will never leave me, nor forsake me, and that is the message that I hope each and every one of you hear today.

That is the lesson we are teaching all of the children who are brought in to our ever growing home, including the two little boys who arrived yesterday.

18-month-old baby Bruce

12-day-old baby Oliver

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

We still need funds to complete the repairs around the farm, if you feel led to help out in this way, please click here to make a donation in the US or click here to make a donation in Canada.

Live from Eswatini … I am in awe.


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Profound coincidences?

Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku speaking at our 10th Anniversary celebration.
We have all heard the expression “a picture is worth 1,000 words” and that is true. I was explaining that to one of my young Kenyan’s recently, that if you look at a picture, it might take 1,000 words or more to put that picture in to words, but when you see the picture, no words are needed to be expressed.  That was a new expression to him, and he liked it.

I have several “epic” photos that I want to share with you today that I think are profound, and worth many more than 1,000 words each.  Your 1,000 words will be different than mine, but I hope you are moved and encouraged by the short story of each.

The first photo (above) is from the 10th Anniversary celebration on July 18th at the Imphilo (Living) Theatre. It is a photo of the Deputy Prime Minister of Eswatini and me laughing as we finished up the program for the day.  He is a good man, a good friend and a cherished partner.  The fires had already been started up on the mountain beside us (visable to all in attendance) and we were about to plant a tree to signify that all we do is to be rooted in love.  None of us had any idea what the next 36 hours had in store for us, but at that moment we shared joy.

The second photo is a handmade drawing that Chloe made for Ian and me as a gift to recognize and remember the 10th Anniversary celebration.  It is pen and ink on canvas and she wrote/drew in all the names of all 239 children living at Project Canaan in the shape/design of our Rooted in Love theme that had a profound coincidence in how much it looked like her new tattoo (see blog  It is stunning and something I will treasure always.  Thank you for thoughtfulness and creativity Chloe.

"239 children in 10 years" by Chloe Maxwell
The third photo is of my dear friend Cheryl Lucas and me. I met Cheryl many years ago (like 25 years ago) at Pizza Pomodoro in Knightsbridge, England. She was the incredible DIVA who entertained us all on Wednesday nights. I had an office in London then (ONYX Europe) and made sure that my monthly visits to the UK office ALWAYS included dinner at this little underground bar/restaurant.  Ian flew Cheryl to Toronto to perform at my 40th birthday party, complete with her full-length red lace dress and feather boa, and my broken leg from my Kenya trip.  Together we danced and sang the night away, only to put her in a limo back to the airport at 6AM the next morning. Oh, those days … 15 years ago.

Cheryl contacted me through Facebook recently and said she would love to come and serve with us at Project Canaan. I was so excited, I almost jumped out of my skin, and I told her about our plans for Music on the Mountain, July 21st.  My favorite DIVA of all time got on plane and joined the celebration. It wasn’t until the end of our trip as we reminisced that we realized that the Ian and I also flew her to Canada in 1998 for Onyx Marketing’s 10th Anniversary too (!), and now she was in Eswatini performing at Project Canaan’s 10th Anniversary.  Honestly, how do we explain that profound coincidence?

NOT TO MISS VIDEO AHEAD:  Ian just spent the past two hours trying to find a photo of Cheryl back in 1998 and he did even better ... you will see an old video that he found in the Maxwell archives of me introducing Cheryl at our party. Ohhhhh, I was so young (and thin!).  ENJOY!

The photo below was sent to me last week by our friend Jessica Condrey.  It is a photo of Spencer and her husband Seth, taken 8-years ago before we moved to Eswatini.  We were in a North Point Community Church small group with the Condrey's and we adopted them all in to our family.  All five of them came for the 10th Anniversary celebrations and Seth lead worship on stage at Music on the Mountain (with Cheryl Lucas in the photo below).  Epic.  Then Jessica sent this photo from 8-years ago – notice Seth’s t-shirt? It says, “Rooted in Love”.  Profound coincidence?

Spencer and Seth 8 years ago - check out Seth's "Rooted in Love" T-shirt!

Seth and Cheryl performing at Music on the Mountain 2019

 This next photo is of a gift that our friend Melissa Trivisonno painted for our 10th Anniversary. It is the “Ten” painting.  If you look closely she has painted ten of each element:  ten tree roots, ten hearts, ten mountains, ten branches, ten flowers, ten waves of water, ten flames, ten rays of sunshine and ten stars.  It would take far more than 1,000 words to describe this gift and what it signifies and means to us all.  This will be proudly hung in our new O2 building.

"Ten" by Melissa Trivisonno
And lastly, I leave you with a series of photos of the chapel burning, taken by Dr. Mark McGee who was evacuated from our Dental Clinic into the back seat of my car . There is an old song that says, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  Of the 63 buildings on Project Canaan, the chapel is the only one that burned down.  The world watched with us on Facebook Live as it happened, and the world wept with us.  

Last night we had a US Heart for Africa Board of Directors meeting and there was lots of discussion of “why God?”, “why the chapel?” etc.   Board member Robert Holmes provided us his thoughts on “why” and it took our breath away. He told us that as he watched the chapel burn, in real time on social media, he felt the Lord saying, “I will burn down my own house so that no other building has to be sacrificed.”  Profound.


Many people have been praying for a double portion to be placed on us and it was also mentioned in the meeting yesterday that perhaps that chapel was too small, and it should be doubled in size when it is rebuilt. We believe that is true.

I have written too many words in this blog, but I hope you will get a glimpse of where I have seen the mighty hand of God in the past few weeks, and how my heart can be at peace in the knowledge that He has been with us at every step, even in the hot and hard ones. I hope you are encouraged by this same knowledge today.

If you would like to make a contribution to the emergency fund to help us rebuild fences, replace drip irrigation or help rebuid the chapel, you can do so at these links:

Live from Eswatini … I have no more words today.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

When, how and where do you evacuate 239 children under the age of 8-years during a MONSTER fire?

I could probably sit and write a whole book about what happened last week on Project Canaan. But for today I will just write a blog and hope that it gets even half of the reads that Chloe’s “Guest blog” got last week with 5,000+ readers.

For months I had been telling people that the 10th Anniversary trip would be “EPIC!”.  I used the word over and over to a point of overuse.  But I knew in my heart it would be true. We had been planning it for a year. From the building of our very own amphitheatre that sits on the side of our man-made lake, to a live art performance by the children that would be life changing, to a super-charged Camp Canaan (complete with a petting zoo that included a monkey, baby piglets/goats/calves and one-day-old chicks), to the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister of the country who is a dear friend and supporter.
Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku.
I had not factored in 36-hours of raging fires that burned almost all of our farm, missing every building (except for the chapel which burned in front of my own eyes in only two minutes), and almost broke our family from physical and emotional exhaustion (not to mention heat and smoke inhalation).  And, as you know if you read Chloe’s blog, I ended up being admitted in the hospital with very high blood pressure (I was later released and am doing follow up medical check-ups – don’t worry, God isn’t finished with me yet).

Ian in the fields looking up at all the smoke and fires on the hills.
Let me try to quickly explain all the different fires that happened, and the locations will make more sense for people who have been to Project Canaan.   Please note that ALL the fires came from the initial one (let’s call it Fire #1) that was set up behind the Emseni buildings on the morning of the 10th Anniversary celebration, but I am going to number the eruptions to help you understand the chaos and flow. Here is what happened as best we can put it together:

Fire #1 – set behind our fire break up behind Emseni Campus (9AM Thursday, July 18th), it was monitored and managed by our staff.

Fire #2 – winds picked up and reignited the fire, which then jumped our fire breaks and burned towards the Long-term Volunteer Lodge, down to our house.  At our house the fire split with one part burning over Fire Mountain and the other part went around our house and on to Moringa Guest house Fires were beaten down and everyone went to bed. (5PM – 10PM July 18th).

This video shows the fire burning on around our house on Night #1 - it did not come in beyond our fencing.

Fire #3 – the winds picked up again and reignited the fire at Moringa Guest house and sent it racing down to the Harp’s house (2AM to 5:30AM on Friday July 19th) and when the fire was under control, those fighting that fire went back to bed, exhausted.

Electrical pole burning by Moringa Guest house.
Fire #4 – Around 11:30 AM on Friday, July 19th the winds picked up again and the fire reignited by the Harp’s house, racing down towards the baby home and Kibbutz.  Everyone on the farm was called in, the babies were evacuated to the toddler home, the Kibbutz children (who were all at home due to school break) were evacuated by the children’s home vehicle, and the farm itself was a raging wildfire. Kibbutz mothers arrived searching for their children, only to find them all missing, and they were distraught. Finally they found them all at the toddler home, safe and sound.

Fire #5 – this really is part of fire #4 as it jumped over the baby campus (or burned around it) and then went down in to the gully straight towards the schools, then on to Khutsala, burning the chapel down to the ground and then racing on all the way to the medical clinic at the front gate. (1PM – 3PM)

Fire #6 – the fire was now back up at the top of the property at the Long-term volunteer lodge, heading like a freight train towards the Emseni Campus where 147 children (ages 3-8) live. (2:45 – 5PM July 19th)  I’ll explain the evacuations below.

Fire #7 – this fire reignited from Fire #2 on the other side of Fire mountain and it raced down towards the Greenhouse, Pump houses, Layer barn and Dairy.  (4PM to 1AM on July 20th).

There are so many facets of these fires that I could write about, but for today, let’s go back to the title of this blog. At what point do you make the call to evacuate 239 children from 2-weeks-old to 8-years-old? That was at the forefront of my mind while fires were erupting in all directions around us. 

I distinctly remember being up at the Lodge and Ian telling us all that if the fire jumps the fire break there, it will head straight to Emseni. I told him that I needed him to tell me when we need to evacuate the children. We didn’t want to panic them, but I needed enough time to get them to safety.  He was the only one who could make that call.

Ten minutes later, without taking his eyes off the fire, Ian said, “The fire has jumped.  You need to evacuate the children at Emseni now”.

I called Bryan and asked him to quickly take all the 147 Emseni children on a quick walk down to the Dairy (1.5 mile walk) to see the cows. Then I sent David Bryant with the van to pick up the 3-year-olds who would be slower walking.

I drove down to the baby home and we evacuated the 50+ small babies (under age of 2-years) from the baby home over to the toddler home, for the second time that day, putting 90 children in that house.  Our nursing team removed all the children’s medical files and put them in a car. We moved diapers, wipes and formula to the toddler home, then commandeered all available vehicles to be ready to evacuate those babies if the fire pushed through Emseni down to the lower campus.

The plan was to take the 90+ babies/toddlers to the Kindergarten (the fires had already burned through there and were stopped by the 1.5 miles of “back burn” another team did from the main road) and the bigger kids would end up going to the Primary school to sleep.  Amber had all buildings unlocked and ready.

 This video shows the second baby home evacuation on Day #2.
I need to stop here and tell you how incredibly proud I am of our entire Project Canaan staff. EVERYONE who was able came to help, and no one panicked.  The volunteers who were there moved swiftly and worked tirelessly for hours and hours through smoke, fire, flames and on their feet, without complaint or panic.  My family (Ian, Spencer, Chloe, Jane and Andrew) ran miles and miles either putting out fires, delivering water to people beating the fires with tree branches or moving children from A to B.

The fires heading towards the children’s homes were subdued and around 5:30 PM and we decided to bring the Emseni kids back up from the dam.  One staff member from each and every home was stationed outside the home that night (they took shifts) to walk around and watch for embers reigniting during the night winds.  All was quiet at the Children’s Campuses and our children slept soundly.

By 6:30 PM our Ian and I found ourselves sitting on the floor in our bathroom/closet with Spencer and Chloe in a state of shock, emotionally and physically exhausted beyond any comprehension. God had protected us all, and He was with us, but wow, no words can describe what we all experienced that day.

Only 30 minutes later we were called to see if we had any gasoline for the water bowser that had run out of gas.  We did, so our kids got up again, drove the gas down to the farm and came back home. An hour later Ian got a call about another fire (#7) that was heading from behind Fire Mountain down towards the farm. We couldn’t move. We were done.  So, the team continued without us and Tim Lambert and Matt Marschall came from the Nkonyeni to help the guys flood the fields with the water irrigation lines.  We are thankful for their help.  Those fires were stopped around 1AM on July 20th.

The next day, Saturday, July 20th, I woke up and thought I might be having a heart attack. Ian and Chloe took me to the hospital and I was admitted with very high blood pressure. I was later released and our final event, the “Music on the Mountain” concert, went off without a hitch on Sunday, July 21st at 9AM – noon.   

I am writing this blog while watching the waves on the Indian Ocean, getting some much needed rest.  I will be getting further medical assessments next week, but for now am feeling good.   While I know that God was in control of those fires for 36 hours, and He was our protector, I am still very much human, and I did put the children’s safety squarely on our shoulders.

A year of planning for the 10th Anniversary events had come to fruition, and everything planned was executed with excellence by our amazing team. It does seem that my prediction of the week being “EPIC”, was clearly an understatement.

We will be meeting with a large team of stakeholders next week to work on a more comprehensive fire plan for Project Canaan. 

Thank you for reading this whole, long blog. Thank you for your prayers, your thoughts and your love. 

Many of you have asked how you can help us, and there are two areas that we really need help with right now.  The first is our Diaper Drive which has been extended to August 5th.  If you click on this link  you can buy diaper and wipes for our children and they will be shipped to our warehouse and into a container that comes to Eswatini in August. We have 500 packs more to go to be full!

Secondly, we have not been able to do fully assess the damage to water lines, crops, electrical lines etc, but we do know that we will need funds to help us rebuild the chapel and repair other damages. If you would like to make a contribution toward our Emergency Medical fund you can do so by clicking on this link in the US and this one for Canadian donations.

Live from Durban … I am thankful for rest and restoration.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mom's in the hospital - Guest blogger Chloe Maxwell

I know that after the live feed yesterday, that most of you are looking forward to reading my mom’s Saturday blog with an update. With the craziness of yesterday, and the turn of events today, my mom has allowed me, her daughter, to write a guest blog for today.

Spencer and I get to come home to visit our parents and Project Canaan at least once a year, but this year we were both lucky enough to come a second time. We arrived to Eswatini on Monday with Spencer’s girlfriend Jane, and his friend Andrew, along with a team of 100+ volunteers. 
We were so excited to be home to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Project Canaan with our parents and 239 little brothers and sisters! 

As Thursday rolled around, we were ready. Mom had been planning this event for a year, and we had received lots of updates along the way. From the children rehearsing, and the invitations being sent out, to the construction of the Imphilo Theatre (which was completed in 35 working days… that’s crazy), every detail was nailed down for our 10AM start.

The event when off without a hitch, and what a celebration it was (you can check out the videos and images on Janine Maxwell’s FB page and the HFA FB page). We noticed at the beginning of the event some smoke at the top of one of the mountains on our property, near where our house is located, so Denis’ team went to check it out. Andrew slipped out as well to check on our house, to confirm all was okay. The event ended at 1PM, and we all went home for a well-deserved nap and shower, mom and dad ready for a relaxing afternoon after a hectic year of planning.

Around 4PM, mom and dad were sitting on the deck, overlooking the property, when they noticed that the smoke that we had seen earlier in the day was much closer to our house than before. The winds had picked up, and that is when the big fires began. We watched from our electric fencing, as the fires came closer and closer, down the mountain and back up the valley, towards our house. Dennis and his team had been fighting the fire for an hour already, and because it was getting so close, we began back burning from the electric fence at the lodge all the way down to the electric fencing at our house. 

I’d like to add that we’ve burned 17 Miles (27 KM) of fire breaks around the property to avoid these problems, but these fires had been either intentionally set inside of the fire break, or jumped the fire break when set on the outside. The fires were huge, we cut branches or “switches” to beat out the fire where we were told to beat, and the night seemed to come to an end around 10PM. Another call came in at 2AM, that the fires had reignited from the wind and were now burning towards the Harp’s house. After fighting fires all night, everyone went to bed around 5:30AM.

At 11:45AM, we got the next call, all hands-on deck. The fires had reignited and were bigger than before, heading straight towards the baby home. We called the Eswatini fire department (who have never responded to one of our calls in the 10 years we’ve been here), and they assured us that help was on the way. We loaded up the car, got the bush knives to cut branches, 2-3 face masks, sunglasses and the 2 pairs of ATV googles we had (what do you bring to fight a big African bush fire?).   

The fire was massive. We split up, sort of, some going towards the baby home and some going towards the fields where they and the bales of hay were on fire. The flames were insane, the smoke was consuming. Jane, Andrew (and others who are a blur now), and I ran through and I looked back for Spencer and my dad. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t see them. Were they okay? The fire had picked up on the Kibbutz side now, so the flames were on both sides of the road. We looked at the burning field, and the flames were growing higher and turning to a dark red, one I hadn’t seen before in fire. Andrew ran into the smoke to find Spencer, they came running back out, and dad came a bit after with the car. I went to his window side, and saw that his face had been singed. His eyebrows and all the hair around his face were a brown fuzz... I cried. He had jumped out of the way and fell hard on a rock when a burst of flames came in front of him by the baby home. What was happening. I just wanted to wake up from this nightmare.

We headed towards the soccer field, as they were back burning the fire to Kibbutz so that it would not continue down the hill. The fire got so big and the smoke so strong, we were sharing the googles and masks we had brought, and had to find refuge under the stage that Jerry Scott had built on the soccer field to shelter us from the smoke. Dad came in his car to the rescue, and we were off through the smoke and down the hill.

The fires burned all day long. Every time we thought we had put one out, another started or reignited. I’m trying to remember the order, and I really can’t. All I know is, the fire was everywhere, coming from every direction. From the Kibbutz, down the side of the Norman Borlaug Park, flooding down behind Khutsala and the medical clinic, then back up behind the lodge and flooding towards Emseni, and back on the farm. The flames were towering over the Khutsala building, and the embers flew on top of the grass/thatch roof of our beautiful chapel. Within 30 second, the roof ignited and the whole building collapsed within 2 minutes. Mom sat in the car sobbing, while allowing the world to watch with her through her LIVE FB feed. It was hard to breath, our eyes were burning, I felt like I was going to throw up. It just wouldn’t stop. It was never going to end.
The chapel built in memory of my biological father.
2 minutes of fire
Everyone was everywhere. Up and down the property, Spencer and mom both had vehicles to shuttle people from place to place and deliver water. We evacuated each building, we evacuated the Emseni children to the dairy farm, we evacuated the babies to the toddler home, twice. There was no time to process what was happening.

Once things had settled and most of our land had burned, the fires seemed to be “controlled,” so we made our way up to the house. It was 6PM.

Last night and today, we are pretty numbed out. There are no emotions, there is nowhere to put this experience. I woke up and went online to see some of the images from yesterday to reflect, and got a text from mom saying, “I see you’re awake. Want to have some lemon meringue pie..? And maybe a cup of coffee? Meet in the kitchen in 5?” Coming from the mom who never eats dessert. “Absolutely,” I replied. The best wake up message.

We started to discuss some of the moments from yesterday as we looked off our porch at the property. Suddenly mom wasn’t feeling so well, and had some heaviness in her chest. We decided to take her to the hospital to make sure things were okay. Mom has been admitted at the Mkhiwa hospital, and I am sitting beside her as I write this blog. We think she might have over done it the past few days, but believe she will be okay. God isn’t finished with her just yet. 

No one said this would be easy. I have no more words, but I ask that you pray for my mom. Pray for our family. Pray for Project Canaan. As that is all that we can do. God’s plans are perfect, right? He makes beautiful things out of the dust. He makes beautiful things out of us.

Live from Eswatini ... Chloe Maxwell

P.S. As usual, the Eswatini Fire trucks never arrived, but we were later told that the reason they didn’t come was either A. all available fire trucks went to the reed fields to protect the king’s reeds for the upcoming reed dance in August, or B. they were broken down.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Indisputable evidence that HE, GOD, personally did all this.

The sun is rising over the mountains here in Eswatini and the smoke from winter fires is causing a haze that looks very beautiful against the orange sky.

This week we will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Project Canaan and 100+ people are flying in from all over the world to celebrate all that God has done in these past ten years.

Last night we had dinner with the Heart for Africa staff members who are here to prepare for the upcoming trip. We have an incredible team who works diligently in the US to support the work here in Eswatini.  Ian and I are thankful for each and every one of them and simply couldn’t do what we do without them. While celebrating all the good things that have happened in the past ten years, I found myself also remembering many of the hurts that I have felt during those same years, and my heart was sad. 

When I was in business I understood the “rules” of business, managing expectations, delivering against commitments and the importance of integrity.  When we stepped into the Ministry world, it was like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. What should have been up, was down, and what should have been down, was up.

I have often said to Ian that in this Ministry, many people have a “say” or a “vote” in our lives, and what we are supposed to be doing and even how we do it, even when they really don’t have any skin in the game.  Our skin is all in. 

During these past ten years we have lost friends because they didn’t agree with the vision of Project Canaan, we have had donors walk away because they didn’t agree with the importance of bringing water from the top of the mountain so that we could become “water secure” and we have had people say things that have hurt us (and our children) deeply.  But we have continued to follow Jesus, and the vision HE has given us, through it all.

This morning I got up early to shake off all this negativity and start the day with joy and peace, two words that I have been praying for the past few days as I mentally prepare for the week ahead.

Early morning on the farm.
I am one of those people who reads my bible on a tablet, but this morning I went back to my old bible that I was reading when we first started this journey. I was led to Isaiah 41:8-20, which was highlighted many years ago, but when I read it now, I see that it was not only comforting, but incredibly prophetic. I hope you will read the whole scripture – it is PROFOUND.

“But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
“Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you
    will end up out in the cold—
    real losers.
Those who worked against you
    will end up empty-handed—
    nothing to show for their lives.
When you go out looking for your old adversaries
    you won’t find them—
Not a trace of your old enemies,
    not even a memory.
That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.’
“Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob?
    Don’t be afraid.
Feel like a fragile insect, Israel?
    I’ll help you.
I, God, want to reassure you.
    The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel.
I’m transforming you from worm to harrow,
    from insect to iron.
As a sharp-toothed harrow you’ll smooth out the mountains,
    turn those tough old hills into loamy soil.
You’ll open the rough ground to the weather,
    to the blasts of sun and wind and rain.
But you’ll be confident and exuberant,
    expansive in The Holy of Israel!
 “The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’m there to be found, I’m there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
I’ll open up rivers for them on the barren hills,
    spout fountains in the valleys.
I’ll turn the baked-clay badlands into a cool pond,
    the waterless waste into splashing creeks.
I’ll plant the red cedar in that treeless wasteland,
    also acacia, myrtle, and olive.
I’ll place the cypress in the desert,
    with plenty of oaks and pines.
Everyone will see this. No one can miss it—
    unavoidable, indisputable evidence
That I, God, personally did this
    It’s created and signed by The Holy of Israel.
Isaiah 41:8-20 (Message)

This week we celebrate the “indisputable evidence that HE, GOD, personally did all this”. 

Live from Eswatini … today I choose forgiveness.


If you would like to make a 10th Anniversary gift to help us continue the work at Project Canaan, please do so today by clicking here for a donation in the US or by clicking here for a donation in Canada.