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Saturday, November 24, 2012

I do not like spiders, snakes OR crocodiles.

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing this blog, but another week has passed. We did not receive a new baby this week, but the week still flew by with other excitement. 

I hesitate to talk about the “other side” of living in Swaziland since so many people who read this blog are so interested in and committed to hearing about what is happening with the abandoned babies, orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland. But there is another side to this country, one that is filled with danger, poison and scales. I will call these things the “creatures of Swaziland”.

There is high risk in writing this blog because many of you may have been contemplating coming to Swaziland and serve with Heart for Africa, but may read this and say “no way”.  If fact, I will confess that I used to NOT talk about these creatures for fear of scaring people off, but not anymore.  Not only is my family living with these critters, but more importantly, the babies, orphans and vulnerable children that so many of your are concerned about have to face these animals all the time, so here it is - the truth.

Ian, Chloe and I are covered in bug bites. Not sure from what kind of bugs, but we itch a lot.  They are likely just ants, mosquitoes or some other flying bug, but we are not sure.  Speaking of flying bugs.  We seem to go through one-week long phases of different kinds of insects.  One day, huge moths will appear on all our outside walls and windows and stay for a week or so, then disappear. They are beautiful and docile so you want to pick them up, but apparently that is not a good idea because if you hold one and it urinates on you, it will burn your skin like acid.  The next week we have an flock (infestation) of termites and in a few days there are piles of termite wings all over the ground and our cars.  The next week, a totally different kind of insect and the following week another different one.  It's actually quite interesting, once you get your head around it.

Last week we had a giant swarm of little black bugs whip through the farm and in to all the windows that were open.  The baby home had screens on all the windows except in the bathroom and the room was FILLED with a swarm of bugs that had to be killed with multiple sprays of  “DOOM”, and then the carnage removed with a broom.  Then there are the spiders. I HATE SPIDERS.  And yet there they are.  Always hanging around.  Each one seems bigger than the next and Ian graciously comes to the rescue each and every time Chloe or I call him (or scream). 

Wednesday morning I arrived at Project Canaan and received a call saying, “Janine, are you on the farm? We just caught the crocodile!”  Sure enough, the crocodile, who had taken up residence at Project Canaan a couple of years ago, was now in captivity.  It was approximately 7 feet long (2+ metres) and was VERY VERY angry to be caught in a huge cage.  When Mark Klee, Denis Musyoka and Ben Sleeper decided it would be fun to once you realize that the crocodile is lookied two feet in the air and screams like a girl  (haha) and Denis and Ben cracked up laughing (after checking to see if their hands were still attached to their arms).
Attached to the cage was the cutest/brightest/coolest looking frog I have ever seen. It was about one inch long (2.5 cm) and had vibrant yellow and black stripes. As I leaned it to take a closer look and photo Kaleli told me to step back!  Apparently those little critters are bright so that you lean in closer and then they spray poison on your face from the yellow stripes on their backs.  Sheesh. Who knew?

I am thankful for all that I have learned about the “creatures of Swaziland” from Kaleli and when I we were talking about the crazy noise that came from the crocodile, he said that is also the sound that a Python makes when it is sending you a warning. Good to know.

Mark and Cameron Klee with the python
Speaking of pythons, on Friday morning I received a familiar call saying, “Janine, are you on the farm?  We just caught a python!”  Really?  Jumped in the car with Albert Smith and Ben Sleeper (what guy doesn’t love a good reptile adventure?). We went to straight to the field right where Sarah and James are setting up a hydroponics test project and there it was – the biggest snake I have ever seen in my life.  Albert pulled out his handy-dandy tape measure and it measured 13 feet long (2+metres), and weighed 65+ pounds (30KG). 

Apparently the snake had been seen the day before by our goat herder and he notified the team to be on the look out. On Friday the goats refused to walk down that road (smart goats) and then the snake was seen again, help was called and snake was killed with a shovel.  The snake was lying in wait for a goat to walk by so that he could grab it, incapacitate it and swallow it whole.  Then, it would sit and digest it for the next three months.  I am told that this size of snake can consume a large adult goat WHOLE.

Now, back to the babies, orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland.  While you were reading this some of you were thinking, “oh, my husband/son would love to read this!” and others of you were thinking “Oh my gosh, I am NEVER going to Swaziland and neither are my husband/son”.  Frankly, as I was writing it I was thinking “I am never going there!” but alas, I live here.  But I have doors, window screens, bug spray, long boots, long pants, after-bite lotion and a husband to call every time I see a spider.  The babies, orphans and vulnerable children of this country don’t have any of those luxuries, not even a father to call to the rescue.

Who will protect these children from bugs, crocodiles and snakes?
How many children get acid burns each year because they didn’t know to not hold the moth?  How many itch themselves until their arms and legs bleed because they are covered in bites and have no screens to keep out more bugs? How many children are at risk from crocodiles or pythons waiting along the road for some small prey to attack?

I am not trying to be dramatic here friends, this is the simply truth.  When a child is left without a mother and/or father, there is no one to teach them about danger, about how to avoid bites or what a crocodile or python sound like in the long grass.  It is estimated that more than half of the population of Swaziland are orphan and vulnerable children.

Thursday was Thanksgiving in the USA and I am thankful for the knowledge of the protection that I have been given throughout my life.  I am thankful for window screens, bug spray and after-bite lotion.  I am thankful for Google to look up photos of bugs/spiders I have seen and thankful for a husband, father to my children, who lives with us and comes to our rescue when we are in distress.  Please pray with me for the children who are not as fortunate as many of us have been.

Live from Swailand … praying for protection for all.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

A new baby is born to a 13-year old mother and new life on the Project Canaan farm

It’s spring here in Swaziland and everything is blooming. Everywhere I look there is new life.   Anthony delivered the first fruits from the tomato garden this week and we were so blessed to enjoy them with beautiful balsamic vinegar that we purchased in Venice during our visit with the International Egg Commission.

The weaver birds have gone crazy outside our back door, building nests tirelessly and then tearing down nests that didn’t quite make the cut.  Sadly we have a few eggs and small birds that come down with the nests and it is a “danger zone” to walk under the tree to get to our back door.  None the less, we love watching hundreds of these beautiful yellow birds fly back and forth all day with pieces of grass that are 10 times longer than they are.  They are God’s perfect creation.
The rains continue to fall each week and our dams are full to overflowing. They are predicting that the heavy rains will not fall this year so we are so grateful that we will have the water from these dams to help irrigate through another drought.

We were so happy to receive another 40 ft container of life-saving Feed My Starving Children food from La Croix church in Cape Girardeau, MO.  We currently provide 10,000+ hot meals to orphans and vulnerable children in the 30 rural church communities in which we serve and we could not do that without this food. It is saving lives and building healthy bodies and minds.

Each Sunday Ian and I go for a 2-3 hour walk around Project Canaan and are absolutely overwhelmed with all that the Lord has provided.  It is mind blowing to say the least.  Last Sunday we went to the Moringa fields where we have planted 1,500+ trees that were started from seed in our greenhouse.  Guess what we found?  Seed pods on many of the trees!  Ian was so excited because now we can start growing our own seeds and don’t have to import them from the US.  I know you may not find that exciting, but we sure did!

There was new life at the hospital this week. I will quickly share two of the many stories that we experienced in a 4-hour time period.

First was the early morning call that a 13-year old (rape victim) was in labor at the hospital and could we possibly go and take the baby?  All this had been reported to the police and when the young man who was accused of raping her was approached, he denied it.  HIS parents were angry at the young girl for such an accusation so they beat her very badly.  Needless to say the girl’s 32-year old mother didn’t want another mouth to feed and the young girl needed to go back to school, so the next day baby Hannah came home to El Roi.

While I was visiting the young girl I noticed another young mother struggling to walk down the hallway. For some reason her bed was at the end of the hall by the cleaning supplies closet and the kitchen, she was not in the main ward.  She could only walk a few steps at a time and needed to cling to the wall to do so.  I helped her get to the toilet and back where I saw her newborn baby lying on the bed waiting for her.  This girl was from Mozambique and had no family in Swaziland.  She had given birth ten days prior by Caesarian Section and was clearly struggling with the after effects of the surgery. Based on her overall health and appearance I would bet that she was HIV positive, which has a very negative effect on the healing process.

I was concerned about her health (and location) so went and got the Social Welfare officer and the Social Worker at the hospital to come and speak with her.  As the story goes, she had been discharged a week prior to our meeting and given a prescription for pain pills and infection, but here’s the catch.  She had no money to pay her extensive hospital bill (this is a semi-private hospital) and so she was not allowed to leave with her baby.  You don’t pay, you don’t go.  Unfortunately, if you can’t pay the bill, you also can’t pick up your prescription because the medication is included in your bill and the pharmacy is on the outside of the hospital after you are discharged and pay. 

I was speechless. This woman was in terrible pain, but couldn’t leave the hospital.  Her boyfriend had his phone turned off so we couldn’t reach him to see if and when he was coming to get her.  I asked how much money it would take to pay her bill (C-section couldn’t be cheap?).  They had to go to the accounting department and have her file pulled. After an hour or so they came back with the bad news … it was R104.  A big number for this young mother with no work. It was $12.50 USD. 

I am thankful for people who come to visit us and leave a bit of cash with me when they leave.  I get bits and pieces of local currency that allows me some freedom when I am in situations like this.  I believe it is all God’s money and so when my little zip lock bag of “emergency cash” is empty, someone always seems to come along and put a little more in it just for when I need it.  Well, that day I needed it and without hesitation I was able to pay the $12.50 hospital bill. Then we dressed the baby with extra clothes I had brought for our newborn (who wasn’t being discharged until the next day), found some clothes for the naked woman (sorry, I didn’t mention that she was sitting naked with only a cloth wrap over her body  - that is how I knew she had a C-section, because I could see the scar) and we drove her home. 

Lori Marschall helping bring Baby Hannah home to El Roi.
I struggled this week with the pain that I saw in women’s faces, with frantic call by a police officer to help care for a 3-week old baby found on the road, with funding needed for the Heart for Africa organization so that we can continue this work, and with my own inability to “do it all”.  But through the pain and frustration I saw all the new life that the Lord has provided – tomatoes, water, birds, eggs, baby Hannah and His gentle assurance that He has never asked me to “do it all”.  He is all I need and He can do it all, and more. 

Live from Swaziland … He is bringing new life to me every day.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

The murder of an 11-year old boy in our community

This may be the most difficult blog I have yet written and even more difficult for you to read. I was conflicted as to whether I should write this in a public post, but after prayerful consideration and confirmation by a dear friend, I have decided to share a very dark, evil story of what happened in our community quite recently. 

First let me start by saying there is evil everywhere. We live in a broken sinful world and Satan is here on the earth to kill and destroy whether it is literally murder, through divorce, broken relationships, incest or all the other things that cause hurt and pain.

Now for a dark side of my beloved Swaziland.

Two weeks ago we got a call from one of our partner churches.  The Pastor was distraught because an 11-year old boy in our feeding program had been sold and then murdered for ritualistic purposes.  I will call the boy Musa for this blog.

Musa was an outcast.  He was born out of wedlock, his mother ran away and left him with the man who she claimed was the father, but the man denied his paternity and left the boy with an old Grandmother.  The Grandmother loved Musa and he was quickly her favorite grandchild because he was so sweet.  He was able to complete fourth grade, but then there was no more money for school fees so he stayed at home and helped care for the animals.

Two weeks ago another teenage boy came along and was helping care for the goats.  The family didn’t know that he came with evil intentions and allowed the teen to sleep in the same small room as the young boy.  Early one morning Musa got up and left with the teenager to take the goats to the bush to graze, but he did not return that night.  The teenager arrived home soaking wet, but said that he had fallen in the river.  The family feared that Musa had also fallen in the river and drowned, but what happened to him was far worse. Musa had been stabbed to death by the teenage boy, and his private parts had been cut off to be used by a local Medicine Man. The other young children in the family were the ones to find his body.

Traditional medicine men (witch doctors as we might call them) have been a part of Swazi culture since the beginning of time. In fact, “traditional medicine” is still practiced in most African nations and is the biggest barrier to Christianity.  Sometimes/often witchcraft and Christianity are mixed together, but that is a blog for another day.

Some people seeking to increase their power and influence visit a local witchdoctor and pay him money for “muti”.  Muti can be made from natural products (trees, roots, plants), but for very strong and powerful muti the witchdoctor may require special ingredients such human body parts, often the private ones.  We are told that Albino children are at high risk because they are considered to provide the highest potency in muti.  Most ingredients are then mixed with river water and then consumed by the purchaser.

We are told by our Swazi friends that as we head towards an election next year, that some people running for public office may start going to their local witchdoctor now (and continue until the elections) so the incidence of murder for body parts will intensify.  This particular case was in the newspaper and radio in Swaziland and our team has become much more safety conscious.  We will increase security around the baby home because young children are at highest risk.

In this particular case the teenage boy would have been hired to go and get the private parts of a young boy.  That would be his assignment and that is what he did.  When the family discovered Musa’s mutilated body they immediately went to find the teenager.  He had run away, but was quickly found by police and the knife and body parts were still in his bag. He is in jail now.

Let me simplify this.  People are going to witchdoctors and paying money for muti to make themselves more powerful, to get ahead in life, to gain wealth and influence.  It is easy to quickly judge this from afar, but what do we do in other parts of the world to get ahead?  Steroids?  Corruption? Sleeping with the boss?  Bribery?  Gossip?  Cheating on income tax?  I believe that sin is sin and God sees it all the same way.  That is hard to read isn’t it? I don’t want my sin to be compared to that of the teenage boy who just murdered and mutilated an 11-year old for his body parts.  But does God see them the same way?  I believe that scripture says He does.

I will end my blog now and leave you to ponder this.  I do ask that you pray for the children of Swaziland and the babies at El Roi, that His mighty hand of protection would be over them and that this generation of young people will be a shining light for all to see.

Live from Swaziland … I am pondering.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Swaziland to Taiwan - we are all the same, just different.

It’s Saturday morning and I am in South Africa on my last leg of an 11-day trip to Taiwan.  While it was a wonderful trip visiting old friends and making new ones, there is no place like home and I will be home soon.

The past eleven days has been spent raising money through the 2nd 100 KM Walk for Water campaign with the students of Changhua Senior High School and other students from Canada, Japan and the United States who joined in.  It was encouraging to see so many businesses join together with students from around the world to help us with funding for the water dam at Project Canaan.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to share about Heart for Africa with the teachers and students from Morrison Academy and applaud all they are doing to serve the Lord and point their students to a life of serving Him. 

I hesitate to attach those first two paragraphs with the rest of the thoughts on this blog so please know that these two topics are not connected in any way other than geography and time. _____________________________________________________________________

Now a few other thoughts from last week.

On the surface, Taiwan and Swaziland appear to be vastly different worlds. Taiwan is stacked high with people living in densely populated high-rise buildings, tens of thousands of motorcycles and food being cooked up and down every street you see.  The opposite is true of Swaziland where 90% of the people live in rural homesteads, walking is the primary mode of transportation and food is scarce due to drought, poverty and unemployment.

One of the similarities of the two nations is the kindness of the people.  I find the Taiwanese and the Swazi people to be kind, gentle, polite and very loving.  There are people in both countries whom I would consider dear friends and those who are family to me.

But on this trip to Taiwan I discovered another similarity and one that was unexpected, and disturbing. 

While sharing with people about the challenge we face in Swaziland with the increase in “baby dumping”, I learned that there was a challenge in Taiwan of a similar, but different nature.  It is abortion.  A couple of women working with Pregnancy Crisis Centers (which are few) told me that it is reported that 90% of all single women who get pregnant have abortions, and many of these women have multiple abortions in their lifetime. It is a growing problem and the total estimated numbers are staggering as women continue to be educated, enter the work force and have options that weren't always available to them.

Unwanted pregnancies are not a new phenomenon and neither is abortion or child abandonment, but the growing awareness of these things must bring us all to our knees in prayer for the mothers, fathers and babies.

If you read my blog dated May 23, 2012 you will know that I am adopted and that my birth mother was 15-years old when I was born in 1963.  As we continue to receive babies in Swaziland who have been dumped I am reminded daily of the gift of life that I, and our new babies have been given. Once again I give thanks that my birth mother chose life for me.  Now I have the opportunity to help others choose life.   

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to meet people all over the world so that we can share our challenges with each other and pray for each other. People are people no matter where you go.  We all have struggles in our lives, in our families and in our communities.  We live in a world full of pain and suffering, but we must remember that there is a God who sees all (El Roi) and loves us through our pain and in spite of our sin.  For all of you who are followers of Jesus and who read this blog, please join me in praying for the children of this generation all around the world, that they will rise up to be strong leaders for righteousness and show love towards others.

Live from Swaziland … I arrived home on the top of the mountain at Project Canaan in Swaziland and am thankful.