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Thursday, November 17, 2011

What do AIDS in Africa and Debt in America have in common?

There has been a delay of several weeks in me writing this blog as I was unsure of backlash that may likely ensue.  But I am back from weeks of travel and ready to write, so here it goes.

I recently had a BIG "ah-ha". 

I spend a lot of time answering questions about the HIV/AIDS and orphan situation in sub-Saharan Africa. They are usually asked by well-meaning, un-informed people.  They go something like: “Why don’t they teach birth-control so there aren’t so many children?”. “Why don’t they just stop having sex so that AIDS stops being transmitted?”.  “Why don’t they use condoms?”. “Don’t they know that if they don’t stop having sex that they will all die?”.  “Why aren’t they educating people why the AIDS pandemic must be reversed?”.

HIV/AIDS is killing the Kingdom of Swaziland (and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa).  And a question that maybe should be asked is why Swazi’s don’t want to talk about it with their families and neighbors?  And why it is politically difficult to talk about it and address it properly at the highest levels of government?  The answer is simple.  To have truthful and effective conversations about HIV/AIDS is awkward and ugly and is brings feelings of shame and embarrassment for those infected with the disease as well as for the government who has to deal with the judgment from and repercussions of the international community. No one wants to have their dirty laundry aired in public view.

Awareness and behavior have to change at an individual level, each person making his/her own choice to stop behavior that is killing the family and the nation while starting to talking about it openly and honestly.  It is repentance (regret for past action and turning away from it). 

Let’s flip it around now.

I don’t spend a lot of time answering questions about the DEBT CRISIS in America.  There are no well-meaning un-informed people in Swaziland who ask me questions like: “Why don’t they teach responsible spending to their children in America?”.  “Why don’t they just stop buying things that aren’t an absolute necessity, like food and water?”.  “Why don’t they just cut up their credit cards and put away their check books?”.  “Don’t they know that if they don’t stop spending and creating more debt that the country will die?”. “Why aren’t they being educating people why the debt crisis must be reversed?”

Consumer and government debt is killing the United States of America (and many other countries around the world). And a question that maybe should be asked is why Americans don’t want to talk about it with their families and neighbors? And why it is politically difficult to talk about it and address it properly at the highest levels of government? To have truthful and effective conversations about debt and spending is awkward, and ugly and is brings feelings of shame and embarrassment for those who lose their home/beach house/boat/car in foreclosure or who are forced to declare bankruptcy as well as for the government has to deal with the judgment from and repercussions of the international community. No one wants to have their dirty laundry aired in public view.

Awareness and behavior have to change at an individual level, each person making his/her own choice to stop behavior that is killing the family and the nation and start talking about it openly and honestly. It is repentance (regret for past action and turning away from it). 


Sin is sin. Whether it is sexual sin or greed, pride or gluttony or the ones hidden in our hearts that will never be revealed in public.  It’s awkward, ugly, shameful, embarrassing and has repercussions of killing our families and our nations.  Let us stop thinking that our sin is somehow different, cleaner.  That is the ridiculous religion of the Pharisees in today’s church.

Joel 1 (Message Bible translation)

Get in Touch with Reality—and Weep!
1-3 God's Message to Joel son of Pethuel: Attention, elder statesmen! Listen closely, everyone, whoever and wherever you are! Have you ever heard of anything like this? Has anything like this ever happened before—ever?  Make sure you tell your children, and your children tell their children, and their children their children.  Don't let this message die out.
4What the chewing locust left, the gobbling locust ate; What the gobbling locust left, the munching locust ate; What the munching locust left, the chomping locust ate.
5-7Sober up, you drunks! Get in touch with reality—and weep! Your supply of booze is cut off. You're on the wagon, like it or not.  My country's being invaded by an army invincible, past numbering, teeth like those of a lion, fangs like those of a tiger. It has ruined my vineyards, stripped my orchards, and clear-cut the country. The landscape's a moonscape.
8-10Weep like a young virgin dressed in black, mourning the loss of her fiancĂ©.  Without grain and grapes, worship has been brought to a standstill in the Sanctuary of God.  The priests are at a loss.  God's ministers don't know what to do.  The fields are sterile. The very ground grieves.  The wheat fields are lifeless, vineyards dried up, olive oil gone.
11-12Dirt farmers, despair!  Grape growers, wring your hands!  Lament the loss of wheat and barley. All crops have failed. Vineyards dried up, fig trees withered, Pomegranates, date palms, and apple trees— deadwood everywhere! And joy is dried up and withered in the hearts of the people.

Hosea 6:1  

"Come on, let's go back to God. He hurt us, but he'll heal us.  He hit us hard, but he'll put us right again.  In a couple of days we'll feel better. By the third day he'll have made us brand-new, alive and on our feet, fit to face him.”

Lord, please shine light on darkness.  Please call your people to repentance and have us listen, again.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The colors of Swaziland

I am sitting half way up one of the hillsides that overlooks the fields at Project Canaan.  Beside me are a series of stakes in the ground with red and while plastic string wrapped around each one to show the exterior outline of our soon-to-be-home in Swaziland.

It’s a grey and dreary day, but no rain yet.  Soon the rains will begin, the crops will be planted and the country will become green again.  But hope doesn’t come with rain or even food anymore in this tiny Kingdom. 

I can’t help but be caught in the confusion of the two worlds that collide here.  Although I hate to make this blog about “color”, there seems to be a “black” Swaziland and a “white” Swaziland.  I hope this blog will not be seen as offensive, that is not my intent.  I am simply trying to put on paper (maybe just for my own self-awareness) what I see on a daily basis and the world which my family is about to move in to.

White Swaziland seems to be made up of people with nice (western) homes,  4 wheel drive vehicles, weekly visits to the local Pick’n’Pay grocery store, children in school, dinner parties with friends and family and general talk of the weather when there is nothing else to say.  This is a general observation and does not apply to all.

Black Swaziland seems to made up of  traditional homes built with sticks and mud, once erect and proud, beautifully adorning the Swazi countryside, now crumbling and washing away because the owners have either died or are too old (or young), or sick to care for their homestead.  There are no grocery stores within walking distance, no money to buy food if there was a store and no energy (or seeds or fertilizer) to plant this year’s garden because of poor health and nutrition.  This also is a general observation and does not apply to all.

Many (most) schools are closed now because the government hasn’t paid the 2nd semester school fees for the 1st and 2nd grade orphans of the nation.  You see, in 2010 His Majesty King Mswati III generously offered to pay the school fees for all children in first grade who were orphaned and who had no parent to pay their school fees.  Read this part carefully please:  the country has a population of 950,000 people and His Majesty paid fees for 120,000 orphaned children who needed to go to FIRST grade only.  That means that 12.6% of the total population is approximately age six.   In 2011 he offered to pay for first and second grade fees for orphaned children.  While it is believed that His Majesty has given the funds to the Ministry of Education but they have not passed on those funds to the school level (to pay the teachers for last semester) so, the schools are closed until further notice.

Dinner parties in “black Swaziland”?  The celebrations and gatherings of past generations seem to have gone away as quickly as the food that used to be present at them.  Buthusile Vilakati, a local 43 year-old woman who is caring for 11 children/grandchildren, has been too sick to work so when there is no food to give her children she goes to visit her neighbors and humbly asks if they will share theirs with her family – some dinner party eh?

And weather?  Well, I don’t hear much talk of the weather in  “black Swaziland” because no one seems to have the energy or desire to just make small talk.  Conversations are about things of importance or there is silence.  As a friend once said, “in Swaziland, silence is the loudest sound”.

While color is often a taboo subject to write or talk about, the fact is that my skin is really really white and my hair is blond and I don’t look like most of my new neighbors.  But I know that Jesus loves me just as much as He loves all of the people of Swaziland and the people of the world.  He allowed me to be born in a first world nation and be raised in a family who had a nice apartment, dependable car, a grocery store next door, a (free) school across the street, the occasional pot luck dinner and lots of small talk when there was nothing else important to say.   But was that really better?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” Matthew 5:3. 

The Message translation of Matthew 5:3 says, “You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

It seems that having all the comforts of living in the western world make it hard to be “poor in spirit”.  When we are at the end of our rope we have many distractions to turn to (TV, shopping, entertainment, food, addictions etc).   When someone has nothing but God to rely on is there is a greater opportunity to be less and have Him be more?  

I look forward to being Buthusile’s neighbor, not so that I can deliver food to her and treat her as a pet project or charity case, but rather to spend time with her and get to know her as a neighbor.  She weaves beautiful mats out of grass – maybe I can help her sell them?  Maybe I can provide a word of encouragement while helping her fetch water from the river some days.  Maybe I can be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Maybe I can just sit in silence and enjoy the moment when there is nothing important to say.

Pondering in Swaziland.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 11th - 10 years later. His ways are not our ways.

Tonight I am siting in a hotel room in Canada after visiting my 80 year old mother in the nursing home or "hell hole" as she prefers to call it.  I had to break the news to mom today that her only daughter (that would be me, Janine), mother of her only two grandchildren (that would be Spencer and Chloe), who moved her family (with her husband Ian) to Alpharetta, Georgia (that would be in the country of the United States of America - out of Canada) was now planning to move to another foreign country (that would be Swaziland) ON A DIFFERENT CONTINENT (and you know where that would be).

Why are we moving?  Because "God asked us to".  When did we start caring about what God wanted?  Shortly after September 11th, 2001... ten years ago this weekend.

It is hard to believe that on night of September 10th, 2001 I was out at a club in the Village in downtown Manhattan with a couple of clients who have never gone clubbing in downtown Manhattan (no, my kids do not read my blog :).  Nothing bad (never did drugs), but loved a good live band and a cool bar scene.  Got in really late (or early on the 11th), had to be a conference by 9AM the next day.  Slept for a short time.  Ordered room service (likely a $25 breakfast) without a thought.  Showered, headed down to the meeting room and then, the world changed forever.

It's now ten years later and certainly a time for reflection.  This year, on September 10th, 2011 I will spend the evening speaking to 300 youth in Effingham, Illinois.  Many of them are followers of Jesus, and (I assume) and many aren't, but all of them were toddlers when the planes crashed from the sky and people jumped from buildings in front of my eyes.  On September 11th I will be speaking at Christ's Church of Effingham to talk about what God has done in my life and how He is using ordinary, everyday people for His glory in Africa - who would have guessed that one ten years ago!?  Not me (or anyone who knew me).

I find it odd that when I think of that fateful day, my mind immediately goes to what I was doing RIGHT before the attacks began.  I was just living my life the way I liked living my life. I was just doing what I liked to do.  Period.  And why not?  I wasn't a bad person.

Ten years later I can't help but see how September 11th changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of my entire family. In approximately 245 days my husband will be working on sustainable farming and economic development on a rural farm in the Kingdom of Swaziland. My son will be heading off to college in America while his family moves to a foreign continent.  My daughter will be enrolled in an international school, in Africa, with students from 180 nations.  And I will become the mother to many... to orphans and widows in distress... to those who need a word of encouragement or a hug (or a kick in the butt).  And my mother?  She will be left in the "hell hole" to keep the staff on their toes and to remind me daily that God loves her as much as He loves the children we will serve in Swaziland and that HE has her in HIS hands, and that I am not to worry (or feel guilty).  NONE of this would have happened if not for the tragic day, ten years ago.

Everything changed on 9/11 and many are still reeling and recovering from the repercussions of that day.  I changed on 9/11 and for that I am thankful.  In the past ten years I have learned that God does not waste anything.  He has taken my life and flipped it upside down.  Would I have embraced this "flip" if I had known about it on September 10th 2001?  NOT a chance.  Now, I wouldn't change it for everything.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  Isaiah 55:8

Thank you Lord for loving us so much that you will allow tragedy and pain for your glory.  Thank you for pursuing me when I was running (or just ignoring) you.  Thank you for loving my mom so much that you have created a safe and healthy place to live so that I can be obedient to your call.  Thank you for a family who said, "yes Lord, here I am".

May all honor and glory go to you and you alone.


PS - He makes beautiful things out of dust:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mona Lisa and the children

We just arrived back from Swaziland and it is time to pause.  But before I do that I want you to see Mona Lisa and Stula's children for yourself.  Please go to this link and meet them:

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for the grandmothers and orphaned children in Swaziland.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Part 2 of Stula's Story - meet Mona Lisa

 (Mona Lisa is the woman standing in the middle with the red shirt and head scarf).
When I arrived in Swaziland last week I immediately asked Kaleli Mulli (our Farm Director) if I could meet with Stula's mother and her children to tell them how terribly sorry we all were to hear about Stula's death.  He immediately made arrangements for that meeting and this is the story from that meeting.

The young woman who died in childbirth two weeks ago was named Stula.  She was the second born of a woman named Mona Lisa (no, I am not making this up).  Mona Lisa is 61 years old, four-foot nothing (as we say), weights 80 lbs dripping wet and is feisty, loving, determined and very very sad.  Her husband died 26 years ago and she was left to care for and raise 5 children, living in rural Swaziland surrounded by abject poverty.

When Project Canaan began in 2009 both Mona Lisa and Stula sought employment from Kaleli and have worked there for the past 18 months. 

Every day Mona Lisa leaves her house at 5AM and walks for two hours to arrive for work at Project Canaan at 7AM sharp.  She is a good and faithful worker.  At 5PM she leaves work and arrives back home at 7PM to begin preparing a meal for her grandchildren.  It is very cold and dark during an hour of both walks as it is winter here in Swaziland and the sun rises late and set early.  Now that Stula has passed away Mona Lisa makes the long journey alone.

Mona Lisa says that Stula was her "rock".  Stula was a hard worker and provided for her own four children as well as helped her mother provide for three of her sisters children who have been left with them.  With Stula dead, now Mona Lisa must provide for seven grandchildren - an almost impossible task.  They range from four to thirteen years of age.

The whole family lives in single room mud hut with a grass roof that has a very big hole in the top of the roof where termites have built large nests and will gradually consume the entire roof.  When it rains the water pours on to the mud floor where the children sleep and share only two blankets.  The children get themselves up in the morning and leave for school at 6AM.  They have a 90 minute walk EACH way, to and from school, and arrive home to wait for Mona Lisa to return from her long day of farm labor. 

They must fetch the water from the local crocodile inhabited river (a short 10 minute walk away) and then fetch wood to start the fire on which they boil the river water to cook the maize flour, which will be their meal.  While the story is heartbreaking and tragic, it is the same story for MOST Swazi's in rural Swaziland today.

The point of this blog is not the hardship that they are enduring or the lifestyle in which they are imprisoned, but rather a simple statement made by Mona Lisa that was awe-inspiring and life-changing.

I sat with Mona Lisa on an old tree stump and passed on our condolences for her loss, offered to help provide clothing for her grandchildren and promised to visit and bring food the following day.  But I had a burning question that needed asking.  I had to ask why and how the family could name Stula's dead baby "Thank you God", when both mother and child had died during child birth?  Mona Lisa looked at me, and without a moment for pause she said, and I quote, "we must give thanks to the Lord God Almighty.  He gives us everything we have and we must thank Him for all things.  If God wanted Stula and the baby to live, they would be alive today.  He chose to take them away two weeks ago, and His plans are best, so we give thanks."

I have so much to learn from my soon-to-be neighbor.  I may have more food and clothing than her, a nicer home with a whole roof, a kitchen and convenient water supply, but I can only hope and pray that one day I will have the faith of a Swazi grandmother, like my new friend and sister Mona Lisa.  May we all give thanks to the Lord God Almighty for He is good and His plans are perfect. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

One young mother dies, one unborn baby dies, four more children are orphaned in Swaziland. Jesus have mercy.

One of the primary objectives of Project Canaan is to provide training and employment for people in the community surrounding the farm, and beyond. Ideally we would be hiring men who would then take their incomes and provide food, water, shelter and education for their children  However statistics clearly show that in Africa if you pay a woman, she will feed and provide for her family.  If you pay a man he is much more likely to spend it on beer, cigarettes and things other than his family.  Let me tell you about one of the women who has worked at Project Canaan since the fall of 2009.

Her name was Stula (which is a nickname meaning "hefty" in siSwati).  She was a bright, friendly, robust Swazi woman who spoke excellent english and worked hard to provide for her four children.  She was pregnant with her fifth child and until last week still showed up on the farm every day to work.  Last Thursday that baby was very overdue and Stula made her way to the local clinic where she was told that she must go immediately to the Nazarene hospital in Manzini (one of the best hospitals in the country).  She and her sister took public transportation (a small crowded bus) and when they got there Stula was induced with pills.  When the pills did not work they gave her an injection which brought labor on hard and fast.  As she cried out for help and moved into a state of distress, the nurse who had been attending her left to find a doctor.  By the time the doctor arrived, Stula was dead.  And so was her unborn baby girl.

Stula was 29  years old.  

The four orphans (ages 4 to 10) who have been left behind will live with Stula's mother, and the orphan statistics bump up another notch.  Grandma, or "Gogo" as she would be called there, also works at Project Canaan, but may have to quit her job completely to care for her grandchildren.  She is in her 50's and has long outlived the average life expectancy in Swaziland of 29 years.  To an outsider she looks to be more like a 70 year old woman.

The all night funeral vigil was on Saturday and I was moved to know that our  Project Canaan farm team was able to take Stula's children to the funeral and be with them as they mourned.

Stula had her own open coffin and the baby girl (whom the family named Sibongile Khoza or "Thank you God") had her own little coffin next to her mom.  The teams says the baby showed visible signs of distress prior to her death.  This did not have to happen.  

Stula and Sibongile Khoza are dancing with Jesus, and for that I am thankful, but I pray that their deaths are not in vain.  I believe with my whole heart that if the Medical Center at Project Canaan had been built then Stula would have had easy access to prenatal care and someone to oversee her pregnancy. I therefore believe there is a VERY good chance that Stula and her baby would be alive today.  She would have six mouths to feed, we would have a great farm worker and Swaziland would have four fewer orphans needing care.  

According to the United Nations the infant mortality rate in the United States is 7.07 deaths for every 1,000 births (infants under the age of one year).  The infant mortality rate in Swaziland is almost TEN TIMES that at 68.63 deaths for every 1,000 births.  The infant mortality rate globally is 49.4 deaths for every 1,000 births.  This is not okay with me.  It does not need to be this way. I believe Stula is one woman we could have saved and I am more determined than ever to get our Medical Center built so that we can save the next "Stula" and her baby.

I won't ask you for money often, but I am today.  If you can help us financially to build a medical/dental clinic on Project Canaan, please give today by clicking here. We still need almost $200,000 to make this dream and we believe that El Shaddai, God the Provider, will provide, maybe even through you.  Thank you on behalf of all the "Stula's" in the Kingdom of Swaziland. 


Friday, June 17, 2011

Will I ever learn?

There are so many things that need to be in place before we can pack up and make our move to Swaziland.  Not just our children's education, selling our house, building a house, driving our cars back to Canada because legally we can't sell Canadian cars here in the US, but also the situation with my mom.

As some of you know, I was adopted as a baby by Bernice and Russ Willis.  As the story goes, they were hoping to adopt a boy, but when they saw my charming smile and strawberry blonde curls they couldn't leave me in the store window.  Well, some of that is true.  They were both wonderful parents, and like all of us, did the best they could with what they knew.  I believe in my heart that most if not all parents do the best with that they know and what they have.   Maybe I am alone in that.  I am thankful for their encouragement, love, support and for the countless hours/days/weeks my mom spent on her knees in prayer for me.  I have no doubt that it carried me through many dark days, and phases in life.

My father passed away in 2005 after a grueling 18 month stint in multiple hospitals across southern Ontario.  His passing was sad, but I was thankful that at last he was out of his pain.  My mom has been struggling with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for almost 20 years and in 2009 had a heart attack and stroke that further limited her mobility.  She spent months in a local hospital and then we had to make the decision to move her in to long term care facility in Guelph where she would receive excellent 24 hour care.  She was not pleased (a GIANT understatement).

My mom is one of those brilliant, no, genius level people, being one of the first women to earn a degree in Pharmacy.  She has been a trail blazer  and was always ahead of her time in health, wellness and natural cures.  She also had determination like no one else I know and she fought to change things that needed changing.  Although I am adopted, I do believe that much of my tenacity and determination was "learned" from my adopted mom.  In the past year mom has been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia, which among other things, removed the "filter" that we use to filter our thoughts, actions and language.  The woman who never used the word "darn" because it was a replacement for "d-m" is now using "alternative" language with her health care providers (I will admit - THAT makes me laugh and I will also admit that I am thankful she doesn't have access to the internet).  It is just a part of her aging process.

This is getting too long, so let me get to the point.  Now mom only has the very limited use of one arm and is in terrible pain due to the degeneration of her entire body (basically stated).  She is in and out of hospital and fiery mad because in her dementia she believes she can still walk, and plans to move home, buy a new van and get on with life at the age of 80.  Yesterday she was rushed to the emergency room and was refusing care as they tried to get her to sign a waiver to do a CT Scan.  My cousin Kim, who has been a true gift in caring for my mom as she also lives in Gueph, called me from the emergency room. I could hear my mom screaming at everyone in the background like a caged animal.  She was NOT going down without a fight and taking as many people with her as she could.

I was standing in the kitchen with my friend Annemarie who said, "Why don't they sedate her?"  I thought, what a GREAT idea, so immediately texted Kim to ask her to have them sedate her so they could do the tests without her fighting.  I was SO thankful for Annemarie's suggestion and wished I had been so thoughtful and clever.  Kim texted me back and said,  "No need, I prayed for her out loud and she settled right down."

Wow.  So I ask myself, will I ever learn?  Will I ever get to the place that I automatically think of Jesus instead of an alternative "human" solution?  This is not about false guilt or beating myself up, but rather about realizing that if I am going in to the mission field in Africa, I need to spend more time in spiritual preparation so that I am in a place of total dependence on Him.  That is where I want my heart to be, and it is not there yet.

Today I encourage us all to lean in to the truth and knowledge that He is our all in all.  He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we need nothing other than Him.

Thanks for reading a most personal, and maybe unusual posting.


PS - I love you mom.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I hate snakes!

The next year may be the longest of my life.  I would like to pack up and move today, but alas, that is not the plan.  Spencer needs to finish his last year of high school.  Chloe needs to finish grade 9 and we have to build a house to live in on Project Canaan.  Plans are well underway and we will start construction when I get there in July.

But for now, let me give you a glimpse in to a day in the life of Janine's mind (a scary place to be at times). Yesterday our local Member of Parliament (in Swaziland) came by the farm with a list of children in our community in desperate need of help. Some were living alone, some with a grandmother, all had buried one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS.  There is very little that the farm team can do for those children because they have the HUGE task of developing the farm, but I realized again that if I were THERE I could go and visit these children, get to know them and see how we could assist them directly.  And then I could come back home and blog about it so that you too know what is happening and maybe could help.  Soon, that will happen - 355 days from now.

The next thing that happened in the sequence of my day was seeing the photo that I have posted on this blog.  It was on Peter Mulli's facebook page (Peter is the youngest brother of Charles Mulli and Peter is living at Project Canaan handling building construction).  YUK!  That snake photo reminded me of the harsh reality of where we are going to live.  THAT, my friends, is (or was) a python, and not a very big one either.  I am guessing that it had slid up that green water tank that is situated beside the Farm Managers Building.

Pythons, Cobras AND Spitting Cobras, Puff Adders, Black Mambas and Green Mambas are only a few of the creatures that we will be sharing land with.  We recently had a crocodile make its way to the farm and is now residing in the water by the fire pit.  The leopard had a baby last year (or cub or whatever you call it) and now there are two leopards living on the land.  So, what to do?  Well, we use common sense and don't walk through the thick brush (stay on the path).  We are having a "Crocodile Whisperer" come and remove our new friend (we would hate to lose a child at Litsemba as they walk past the pond to get to the event), and we cling to the knowledge that the leopards don't want to see us anymore than we want to see them.  Staying out of the thick brush should also eliminate bumping in to the wild pigs and warthogs that have lived there long before we bought the land.  It's about living in peace and harmony, with our human neighbors and the critters who live there.  This could be a great area of prayer for you, if you are a "pray-er".  Pray for protection of our family and the people we are serving with.

For those of you traveling with us this summer DON'T freak out.  The good news is that you are there during the dry season and the snakes are hibernating during that time.  Honest.  And our neighbor and friend, Prince Guduza, has never in his whole life seen someone get bit by a snake.  Of course I believe him ... don't you? 

Today I am pondering life in Africa while sitting in the safety of my home in Georgia. I think about the children who live with snakes and spiders every day, with no parents to teach them or console them if they are afraid.  Lord, go before us and make the way clear so that we may see your glory at every step.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

What about Spencer and Chloe?

It is heartwarming to know that EVERYONE who we have told about the move first want to know what will happen to Spencer and Chloe?

Let me reassure you, we are NOT abandoning our children in order to go care for other children in Swaziland!  That would be dumb, albeit not an unheard of situation.  People in ministry (or business for that matter) have a long history of caring for others better than they care for their own families.  I hope and pray that is not the case with the Maxwell's move to Africa.

Spencer will move with the family to Swaziland on June 1, 2012 and then we will bring him back to start college (or University for our Canadian followers) in the fall.  Not sure where he will go yet, but he is considering SCAD in Savannah, GA and Florida State University, both to study film.

Chloe will be applying to the Waterford Kamhlaba International school in Mbabane, Swaziland.  All reports show that this is a really cool school.  It was created during aparteid in South Africa to "deliver a challenging and transformative educational experience to a diverse cross section of students, inspiring them to create a more peaceful and sustainable future".  Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both sent their children to this school so we are thinking it might just be okay for Chloe.  You can read about it yourself at

The school is a boarding school and a day school so we don't know whether Chloe will live there during the week or live on Project Canaan.  I am hoping for PC!  The school year runs January - December, so Chloe will be testing this July to see if she would be able to parachute in to the middle of her sophomore year in 2012.  With nine years of private school behind her both in Canada and the US we are hopeful that she will be able to make that leap.

I wonder if they have a "Cirque" program at the school in Swaziland?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

365 days and counting ...

At long last the time has come that I can write the words "THE MAXWELL'S ARE MOVING TO AFRICA!"    Since I first stepped on African soil in Zambia April 2003, I have longed to go and live with the people who I came to love so quickly.  Meeting young children who live and die on the streets or those who have been orphaned by AIDS, has changed my life.  Meeting the women who try to care for their own children and those who have been left behind by friends and family has brought me to my knees over and over again.  As a family we have worked tirelessly to serve the Lord while helping those in need, but it is hard to do that from North America.  We have now been released to move to Swaziland and begin a new chapter in the life of the Maxwell family.

Our plan is for Spencer to finish his senior year and Chloe to finish her freshman year at Milton High School.  On June 1, 2012 we will say goodbye to our friends and family in Alpharetta/Milton, Georgia, where our home has been for the past five years.

This blog will allow you to come along on the journey that we are about to begin, only if you would like to. The words and opinions will largely be mine (Janine), but from time to time you will hear from the rest of the family.

Spencer will be sharing his thoughts with you every month on a video blog. You can watch the first episode of "My family is moving where?" here.

Chloe will be sharing her thoughts along the way through facebook so please feel free to "Like" the Maxwell's Moving to Africa on facebook.  You will hear from the rest of us on that page too and we would like to hear from you too.

Once we move to Africa, 365 short days from today, we hope you will continue to follow our adventure as we begin to bring in abandoned babies, work with orphan headed-households in the community around Project Canaan, grow and export tons of food and so much more.  Of course, that will all be dependent on us having electricity, internet access and a few other basics like fresh water.  You see ... the journey REALLY does begin today.

People have asked me when I am going to write my next book.  My answer is that this blog is the next book, and you get to read it as it happens.

We hope that you will join us and invite a friend, if you think they care.  I promise to write from my heart and will try not to offend along the way, but, can't make any promises :)

The 365 day count down, begins!