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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday morning with Deborah ... and a new blog on Wednesdays

It's Saturday morning and I have just decided to hang out on my yellow chair with Deborah. She is not eating well yet and her body is still healing so TLC (tender loving care) is what she needs the most right now.  With that in mind, that is all I am going to say in this weeks blog.

For those of you who don't know, I have started a new blog that is called "Wednesdays with Nomsa" and it will be posted every other Wednesday.  You can read the introduction to this new journey at

Live from Swaziland ... I'm in my big comfy yellow chair.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Father built a crib for Baby Deborah 46 years ago - she was born last week

I don't believe in coincidence, but every now and then I find myself shaking my head and wondering, “what are the chances of that and what does it mean?”.  I will try to explain how I experienced this in the past few days.

On May 23rd 2011 I posted a blog called “My Birthmother was 15-years old when I was born” ( and it has been the most read blog over the past nine months until this past week.  It’s my personal story of how my birth-mother got pregnant at the age of 15 years, but how God’s plans for my life were made even before she knew she was pregnant. El Roi (The God Who Sees) had the perfect family ready to adopt me and when I arrived in this world and Bernice and Russell Willis brought me in to their family to love and care for me as their only child.

On Tuesday, February 12th I felt compelled to write a mid-week post called “It’s Tuesday night: Newborn dumped, a baby dies and mother tries to commit suicide” ( and in only three days it surpassed the total number of reads of my May 23rd post.  It is the story of a tiny baby who arrived in this earth last week, unplanned and unwanted.  The premature baby was put in a plastic grocery bag, the top was tied and she was left under a tree to die.  But El Roi saw her there and His plans for her life were very different.

On February 13th, 2005 my dad, Russell Willis, passed away and to this day I miss him terribly. He was buried on February 17th, 2005 and for those of you who have lost a loved one you know that the days between the passing and the funeral are intense, emotional and look to God more than we might on another normal week.  This past week I have thought a lot about my dad as I remember his life and his love for my mom and me.

What am I talking about?

Yesterday, February 15th I had the privilege of bringing the little baby who was left in the bag under the tree home.  She has been named Deborah (from Judges 4) and she is a fighter.  She is only 1.9 KG (4.3 lbs) and has a nasty/angry wound on her backside so she requires much one-on-one care and a very clean environment to get her strong and healthy quickly.  Ian and I decided to bring her to our house, which is only a seven-minute walk from the El Roi Baby Home.  The Baby Home currently has 26 babies and we are short staffed so this seemed to be the most logical and practical solution to provide love and care for this little one. 

When we arrived home I was making a plan in my head of what I needed.  Of course Helen had things prepared for me to take to the house:  bottles, clothes, diapers (although we have to leave her diaper-less to have the wounds heal), towels etc.  Brooke came and helped attend to the wound and give Deborah her first round of oral antibiotics and then we had her alone. So tiny, so bruised and scratched and yet so perfectly made.

Then the question was where would she sleep?

When I was a little girl my dad, Russell, made me a crib for my baby dolls.  It stands about 24” high and is about 35” long – just perfect for a little girl and her babies.  I haven’t kept a lot of childhood stuff, but I remember deciding to keep that crib so that if I ever had a daughter that she would play with this special crib made by her Grandpa.  Chloe did play with it for many years.

When we moved to Swaziland the question was asked if we should ship the crib, especially now that Chloe was well past that age :).  The answer was yes, they can use it at El Roi when the babies are bigger.  Christmas 2012 I pulled the little crib out of our shipping container and had it in the living room when all the babies were up for Christmas dinner. I planned to send it back with Helen that night, but alas we had many babies and many things to move that night so the crib stayed.  It sat at the back door waiting to go to the Baby Home for weeks.  Finally it was moved in to Spencer’s room to get it out of the way. 

Ian's hand size compared to Baby Deborah's hand
Yesterday I used Spencer’s bathroom to get baby Deborah cleaned up and medicated (thank you for sharing Spencer :).  And when I turned around to bring her out to the living room, there was the little crib that my dad had made for me, literally 46 years ago in Northern Ontario, Canada.  And now it was with me in Swaziland, Africa so that a little baby who seemed to be unplanned and unwanted had her own perfect size bed.

Coincidence?   God’s perfect planning?  Either way, the thought brings me to tears as I see His hand on my life and the life of this little baby whom He has brought to us for such a time as this.  Take a look around. He has done things like this for you too. Don’t miss them or think they are just coincidence. I believe they are a part of a master plan and I am in awe of the Master Planner.

So glad Ian saw her holding on

Thank you all for your prayers and for those of you who have committed to financially supporting us on a monthly basis. Thank you for being a part of the story and the lives of so many lives who were planned and wanted, even when circumstances might have seen to be otherwise.

Live from Swaziland… I am enjoying watching a tiny baby sleep.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's Tuesday night: Newborn dumped, a baby dies and mother tries to commit suicide - midweek post.

On Monday night I arrived home from possibly the worst day of my life.

I had to sit and write to help me breathe.  I sent it to a few dear friends and family members who are supporters of the babies at El Roi, and me personally.   I struggled a lot as to whether I should publish this.  I am paranoid about it sounding sensational (because it is a story from hell) and I don't want to post photos, but believe that people should see what is really happening here.  Maybe then you will help (if you don't already).  After today, I believe that I am supposed to publish this.  I hope I don’t get in trouble for telling this story.  Please share it if you think you should.  Please DO SOMETHING to help if you get to the end.  Here is what I wrote last night…

I just got home after a very long hard day, showered and am now seeking comfort from Donnie McClurkin worship music and my yellow chair.  When my brain and heart are on the edge of exploding I must write.  It is like oxygen to my soul so that I can breathe again and nothing is forgotten. When I am finished writing the tears will have soaked my tshirt and emptied my soul.  Here is what happened today.

At 10AM I got a call from the Child Protection unit of the Police saying a newborn baby had just been found in the bush in our area (Sidvokodvo).  The police were taking the baby to hospital as she was in bad condition. They thought she had been born just yesterday and was found today alive.  I got in the car, picked up Jamie Klee and headed to the hospital.  Halfway there my car broke down (again). We waited 45 minutes before Ian could come to the rescue, switch vehicles and continued on to meet the police.  I am going to start praying harder for the Lord to provide a good vehicle for me to use.

I know you will look at this photo and not want to continue, but seriously, this is really a little baby. Please keep reading. 

Jesus help us.
When we got to the hospital we quite accidently bumped in to the doctor whom I often write about (but never name for privacy reasons).  He was so surprised to see me because he was just about to call me about an abandoned child.  He had just examined the baby and was waiting for her to come to be washed and cared for.   He allowed us to go in to the tiny room where they washed her and take photos to show what condition she was in.  She has many bug/insect bites all over her body, there is a bone misplaced in her leg (will check for fracture when she is stable), her face and backside are in very bad condition (maybe burned?) and raw and she had maggots crawling out of her eyes and ears.  Lots of them.  She is premature and weighs 1.8 KG (4.1 pounds), but she is a fighter.

They had to wash/scrub her twice then finally went and got disinfectant to bathe her in to try to kill the bugs.  She screamed as the liquid hit her open skin. We stood and prayed.

She was then put on a sheet under a “warmer” and the nurse left to get dressing for her wounds. 

Maggots filled her mouth, eyes and ears.  These were digging a hole behind her little ear.
As Jamie and I stood in this small washing room, we suddenly realized we were in the NICU room. There were three other babies there on oxygen and monitors.  I looked at the little boy beside our baby and it didn’t look like he was breathing.  I said that to Jamie and went and put my hand on his tiny chest.  I didn’t feel anthing, but I am not in any way a medical professional.  The nurse walked in just then and I mentioned that the baby didn’t seem to be breathing. She left and got the doctor who was right outside the door.  He came in and immediately started CPR, as we stood and watched and prayed.  After 10-15 minutes of CPR, listening, oxygen, and other emergency things I can’t think of the name of right now (which seemed like a flash and an eternity all at once) he shook his head.  The child had turned color.  He was dead.  Just like that.  Gone.

We believe and are hopeful that our baby, now named Deborah because she is a fighter, will live.  I will be there every day this week to help with her care while the mother of the baby boy will mourn the loss of her beautiful child.

After a time Jamie and I left the hospital in tears, and headed home.  I couldn’t just go home with the vision of that baby boy in my mind so suggested that we stop at the police station to find out if they knew anything more about Deborah’s situation.

This is where the plastic bag with baby Deborah was found.
The police were very kind and agreed to take us to the place she had been dumped.  Deborah was a newborn (umbilical cord still attached) and was put in a black plastic grocery bag.  The police said that the top was tied in a knot and she was left in the bushes under a tree in the middle of nowhere.  This morning a local man was walking by and heard what sounded like crying.  After listening closer he moved closer to the sound.  When he saw the bag moved he was terrified and thought it was a snake so ran to a local store for help. He and the store-keeper came back to investigate the strange bag and found the baby.  She was somehow half in and half out of the bag, face down in the dirt and crying to save her life – literally. 

We went and met the man who found her – the hero of the day.  He said her mouth and ears were full of maggots and it was terrible. He shook his head when he spoke of what he saw.  I gathered together all that I had left in me and shook his hand, thanking him for saving the life of a chosen child – a child who was seen by El Roi himself.

I am tired, confused and emotionally finished.  I don’t know why the Lord had us sit on the side of the road today for 45 minutes, only to be in the room to see a baby die.  I don’t know why he allowed baby Deborah to live for two days (they think) in a black plastic bag under a bush – not eaten by dogs or snakes, and then He allowed a baby boy to die in a hospital NICU care center. 

But my faith is in Him and always shall me.  He is El Roi, the God who Sees and I will cling to that today and in the days ahead. 


Sorry for the long blog, but this is a Tuesday update, which has prompted a mid-week blog.

Baby Deborah on Tuesday.  So much better.
Don't mind the guy replacing the entire light FIXTURE over the NICU babies.
Monday night around midnight I got a text from a young woman saying she was cutting her wrists to commit suicide.  A bad text.  I called her and tried to encourage her and change her plans. She hung up the phone and it was early morning before I could contact anyone to find her.  By 10 AM we drove and found the young woman. She was lying on the ground in a local homestead and had overdosed on a drug we couldn’t find.  We took her to the hospital (sadly there is no 911 to call, no ambulance and the social workers of the country don’t have transportation) and got her in to the emergency room.  From there I literally walked to the Neonatal unit of the hospital and spent an hour with baby Deborah who is doing MIRACULOUSLY well!  The nurses can’t believe the change in her!  She is off the oxygen.  She is breathing well on her own and the swelling has gone down so much.  The nurses say, “This one will live!”.  I spent an hour with her and fed her a bit, but she was tired and slept for most of the time while I told her about what a fighter the Prophetess Deborah was. 

From there I checked in the Emergency Room again, stomach pumping still in force, then on to the TB hospital to see the mother of our twins Leah and Rachel.

This is a mid-week blog to bring those of you who really care and want to read it.  I really pray that EVERYONE taking the time to read this mid-week post will take the time to give monthly so that we can feed and care for these babies. Even $10 a month can help.  If you can give $100, or $1,000 that would help too. As Nike says, JUST DO IT.



It's Tuesday night and this might be next Saturday's blog post.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Baby Grace is 14-months old and has Fungal Menigitis AND Tuberculosis - we are fighting for her life.

Sandra with Grace and Andrew

This is a hard story to write because it is very raw and my heart is aching, but it is an incredible story that must be told so I will write it for you now.  It’s a bit complicated so I will attempt to untangle it as best I can.

On January 15th I dropped in to the local hospital here in Swaziland with Dr. Ann Williams, who is an Opthamologist in the US and who also sits on our Board of Directors. Ann was here on an 11-day service trip and I wanted to introduce her to a doctor friend of mine who works hard with our babies who are malnourished.  When he heard that she was an Opthamologist he asked if she could do him a favor and see a small patient who was in bad condition. The doctor then told us the back story of baby Grace.

Grace is 14-months old and was found on the side of a road early in January 2013.  The baby was sick and the young mother couldn’t care for her (or chose not to) and left the baby with a note attached saying, “My baby is sick, please take care of her.  I am going to see my boyfriend”.  The baby was found, recognized and then taken to the paternal Grandfathers house for care.  The Grandfather of the child called his daughter and told her she must take the child to hospital (she is the sister to the baby’s father who is mentally ill and could not care for the baby himself). The baby’s Aunt had to quit her job and go stay at the hospital with the baby.  When they reached the hospital the baby was in a coma and remained that way for a week.   Grace was diagnosed with having Meningitis and was being treated very aggressively to save her life.  A couple of days after when she came out of her coma she went blind, right in front of the doctors eyes.  It was tragic and the doctor asked if Ann could examine the child and see if the damage was permanent, and so she did an examination of the child and gave us all the bad news.  The child would be blind permanently.  We walked away from the hospital sad and angry at the selfishness of the young mother who chose a boyfriend over the health of her baby.  After that I left for a two-week trip to Asia and didn’t think of the baby again until I got home.

This past week we had some friends come to visit from the US.  Andy and Sandra Stanley (Andy is also our Pastor at Northpoint Community Church) were in South Africa for a speaking engagement and decided to come and visit us for a couple of days.  I knew that my doctor friend at the hospital in Swaziland was a big fan of Andy’s books and teachings so I brought the Stanley’s in to the hospital for a short visit and learn of the work this doctor is doing with malnourished babies.

Dr. Ann Williams examining blind child
Dr. Ann Williams at the hospital in January

As we sat and visited I asked the doctor how the baby with Meningitis was doing?  He lit up and said, “The baby regained her sight!  She was healed!”  Wow!  I couldn’t believe it. But then he went on to explain the baby’s health was very serious.  She had Fungal Meningitis (much worse the Bacterial Meningitis) and Tuberculosis (TB) and was very ill.  It was a sad moment and then we moved on to other things.

Only a few minutes later I got a phone call from the Social Worker in that same hospital. She said she had a case to discuss with us and we went to visit her next.  The situation with that baby was complicated and so she passed it along to the Social Welfare office for help.  We headed over to the Social Welfare office in another part of town and discussed that case there.  It was agreed that we would take the baby described and would pick her up the next day.  We had NO idea that the baby was baby Grace because there was no mention of health issues. 

When we arrived at the Social Welfare office on Thursday morning to pick up the new baby I met with the father of the child and a couple of women who had been caring for the child.  They explained a bit of the background, but it never occurred to me that it was the same baby as the one in the hospital. They had shaved her head and she was in boys clothing so I didn’t even recognize the child. But then something happened.  I asked the Aunt to hold the child so I could get a photo for our files.  As soon as I saw them together I knew it was the baby with meningitis from three weeks ago! 

I asked her if she remembered me visiting her in the hospital with an eye Doctor and she said yes, but she was very sheepish.  It was a strange moment, but I knew that it was a divine appointment.  I asked if the child had any medical issues we should know about and they did say that she has had some sight loss, but some of it had come back.  They also said that she had had Meningitis and was having trouble sitting now as a result, but she was otherwise healthy. 

When we finished that meeting and took custody of baby Grace the Social Welfare officer told us there was another baby waiting outside to go with us too.  We met little baby Andrew, who is 5-months old, and after getting the details of his situation we left Manzini with two babies.

On the ride home Ian reminded me that when we met with the doctor at the hospital he said that baby Grace had Tuberculosis.  Right.  I had totally forgotten that.  The family didn’t give us any medication and there was no mention of the child having Tuberculosis.  After we dropped the babies off at the El Roi baby home it was time to take Andy and Sandra to the airport and so we headed back to town.

Baby Grace with her Aunt (face hidden for privacy).
As we were approaching the airport I got a phone call from the doctor at the hospital saying he was at the airport to say farewell to the Stanleys.  I was so happy to hear that because I wanted to update him on baby Grace.  When I asked him if she had Tuberculosis he said yes and also mentioned the Streptococcal Meningitis that they will be treating for the next 12 months.  WHAT!?  The family didn’t mention this nor did they give us any medication!  I told him this and he was very upset. He explained that the child was deathly ill and that the Tuberculosis was not only in her lungs, but also in her brain because of the Meningitis.  Good grief. 

We got to the airport, said goodbye to our friends and then regrouped to discuss the situation with baby Grace.  I just “happened” to have the Aunt’s phone number in my purse so I dialed her number and handed the phone to the doctor so he could ask her where the medication was.  If my heart wasn’t hurting enough at that point, it almost broke when I heard her response.

When the baby was discharged three weeks ago the Aunt had no money to pay the hospital bill so she snuck out with the child.  By sneaking out she didn’t get the LIFE SAVING prescriptions that the baby needed and so Grace has been without medical care since that time.

The doctor was visibly shaken, but was kind on the phone, thanked her for telling the truth and hung up.  He dropped his head and shook it from side to side.  He explained the seriousness of Grace’s illness and said he must see her first thing in the morning. 

Early Friday morning we packed up baby Grace and I drove Thabile and Brooke to the hospital to find meet with the doctor.  After five hours, multiple meetings, x-ray, TB clinic and pharmacies we learned that Grace has two types of Meningitis. One is TB Meningitis (which means she has TB in her brain) and the other is Fungal Meningitis (fungal infection in the brain).  She also has TB in her lungs, which makes her infectious (not highly infectious) and needs to be isolated in the baby home for 2-3 months.  We have to work out how that will happen, but we will be sure that she is well loved.  Grace will take six pills each day for the TB and a different medication for the Meningitis.  The doctor thinks it will be a full year of treatment.   

On the way home we got a flat tire (actually shredded tire) – that just topped off the whole day. 

We do not know if her lung TB is a drug resistant variety so we will take her to have a sputum (phlegm) sample tested on Monday.  We pray that it is NOT a Drug-Resistant type of Tuberculosis as that would give us another level of complication as it relates to the other babies. We don’t want to expose them to that type of TB (or any type of course), but TB is a part of life here in Swaziland.  It is said that 70% of all people living her have active or inactive Tuberculosis and 30% of the population has a Drug-Resistant (or Multiple-Drug Resistant) types. 

This baby is a very sick baby, but we are overjoyed to have the blessing of being able to care for her.  We know that Grace has been brought to us for a very special reason and while we don’t know what that is right now, we are thankful for this opportunity. 

Live from Swaziland … I am taking the day off!


PS - As always, if you would like to support the El Roi Baby Home on a monthly basis please click here and sign up today.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What is Chloe really thinking?



We have been learning Japanese all week and I wanted to practice my written Japanese for this blog.  That first paragraph really took a lot of work so I will switch back to English now. *

I asked Chloe to help me with this week’s blog since we have been together 24/7 for the past two weeks.  She said I could ask her questions and give her answers about the past few weeks so I hope you all enjoy her candidness and her heart. 

Janine:  Chloe, what was the best part of your first trip to Asia?

Chloe:  I loved meeting all the people at the Morrison Academy in Taichung, Taiwan.  I felt that God was there with me and that all my 16-year old doubts about the school and the situation got checked off as the days past.  I met people who were so different from anyone I have met before and I felt that I finally fit in somewhere, but could still be my unique self.    I love that I have met people who are like me and now I understand that I am a TCK and what that means.

Janine:  What is a TCK?

Chloe:  TCK is a “Third Culture Kid”.  It’s when a kid grows up in one culture and then moves to a whole new culture and goes to school with other kids from other cultures. This creates a third culture that brings everyone together and creates a new perspective or mindset.  That is the “third culture”. Every TCK understands that each person has gone through similar changes (moving, changing schools, loss of friends, starting over, world being flipped upside down etc).  My new school happens to be a place that brings TCK’s together creating a “home” when describing where “home” is, can be complicated. 

Janine:  Are you nervous about going to school a million miles away from your parents on a foreign continent?

Chloe:  As of right now, my answer is “no”.  I have already made one huge change in my life (moving to Africa) so change seems pretty normal nowadays.  Of course I will miss my parents, as any kid does when they first move away from home, but I am so unbelievably excited about this that it makes moving away much easier.

Janine: What did you think about the second part of your trip – your time in Japan?

Chloe:  Now THAT felt like a completely different planet than Taiwan, and Taiwan felt like a different planet than I had ever been on before.  The coolest part was being able to see my mom’s double life that she has been hiding all this time. The people she was talking about for the past five years were real.  I thought she was kidding when she told me she had to take off her designer boots and put on red rubber slippers when she entered a private High School in Japan… nope.  Dead serious.  But she does like her job, and I am glad she does.  I loved meeting people who are the same age as me, but who speak a different language and still having something in common. 

Janine:  What was the hardest part of your first trip to Asia?

Chloe:  Nothing is written in English.  Nothing. Every sign is in Mandarin or Japanese and we had to rely on others to help us around.

Janine:  Do you have any other thoughts that you would like share with the readers of this blog?

Chloe:  Yes.  Two is better than one.  It is always better to travel with someone than alone.  Traveling with my mom has been an enlightening experience, to say the least. Here are three travel tips that I learned in the past two weeks. 

1.     Sarcasm is a virtue – leverage it.
2.     When you feel like you have screwed up and created an international incident, remember to laugh, it’s better than crying.
3.     Enjoy the adventure - don’t be afraid of trying something new and miss out on something that might change your life.

Thanks for following us on this journey.  We are finishing up the ONE WORLD Festival tomorrow and head back to Swaziland on Monday night.  This has been an amazing trip, but it will be wonderful to be home again. 

Live from Japan… it’s very late on Saturday night.

Chloe and Janine

* If you know how to use google translator you will be able to see how I cheated  :)