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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The burned baby has burned a hole in my soul.

child's face hidden to protect him.
I have horrific photos of this child's burns, but it would not be right to post them publicly.

Since I first heard about the baby who was lit on fire by his own father I have not been able to rest. My heart hurts and my head is confused. How could this happen? What kind of a man lights his 18-month old baby on fire?  It’s the same kind of man who beats his 15-month old baby (same child) so badly around the head and buttocks that the child has to be hospitalized.  But no charges were laid on this man and the boy was taken back home after his wounds healed.

Two months later this same man was angry at his son for “soiling” himself.  The same reason he beat him in January. Yes, this 18-month old isn’t quite toilet trained yet and soiled himself, so to punish him the father lit his bum on fire to teach him a lesson.

Each day I think about this, have conversations about it or pray about it I get more and more angry.

I got home late Tuesday night from my US visit and went straight to deal with this situation on Wednesday morning.  We are being asked by the mother and Social Welfare office to bring the baby to the El Roi Baby home when he is well enough to be discharged from the hospital because the father is determined to kill the child when he is released from prison.  This boy we call Benjamin will hopefully find his permanent home on Project Canaan, if that will keep him safe from harm.

As I was reviewing the whole situation Shirley gave me the original newspaper article about the child, which just fueled my anger even more (see article below).  This man intentionally lit his son on fire (for pooping his pants), the child has THIRD degree burns, no second-degree burns, AND then he HID the child for FIVE DAYS so no one would see what he had done.  Further more, when the children was found and taken to the hospital he demanded that the child go to the government hospital instead of the semi-private hospital because the nurses would recognize him from the January child-beating incident.

All I want to do is go and visit the father in prison with a diaper, some lighter fluid and a pack of matches.  But I am told I can’t visit. Why?  Because if the child comes to live with us it will be to protect him from this monster and I should not identify myself to him so that the child remains safe.  (Maybe Quinton Tarantino is available to go “medieval” on him?)

When I left the US I had a suitcase full of top-of-the line burn supplies and treatment, but we can’t get them to the child until we have Guardianship.  We can’t mandate or direct how a hospital gives care, and it is a dangerous road (and potentially dangerous to the patient) to start interfering with hospital treatment or care.  We don’t want to step on toes, but need to gently navigate through the system to help the child.  We have funding to move the child to a private hospital where he will get his bandages changed every 12 hours, rather than every 48+ hours, and a team of people working on a plan for skin grafting and surgery.  But it all takes time, wisdom and patience, which is not one of my best virtues.

We are praying without ceasing this weekend that the politics and process surrounding this case will be cleared on Monday and we will be allowed to help the child, and the mother (who has left 3 other children uncared for while staying at the hospital for the past month).  We hope that we can help this whole family in some way, starting with food (Manna Packs from Feed My Starving Children), clothing and TOMS Shoes as their clothes are rags and they have no shoes.  It won’t solve all of their problems, but it will help for today and tomorrow, while we try to help in the long term with the little one.

I am frustrated, but I know that God’s timing is always perfect and when we couldn’t remove the boy yesterday I knew there was a reason.  So today I sit and blog to keep me focused and remind myself that this is all HIS plan, not my plan and I am only invited to be a small part of it.  I ask you to pray with me that a clear path is made and that confusion put aside.

On a happy note we received and unloaded a container filled with supplies for the Sisekelo preschool and the EL ROI Baby Home today, sent by our friends at the US Bank and shipped by the UPS Foundation.   This is great news for all of the children living at EL ROI and little Benjamin who will one day attend school there.

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful that this is where I live and serve.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bombing in Boston, Flooding in Chicago, Burned Baby in Swaziland.

 Do you ever sit back and think, “The world has gone crazy”?

This week two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon killing three people and injuring 176 people.  With live television and high-speed internet the world was able to watch each moment of the blast as well as the search and capture of the two suspected bombers.  We all want to protect our children and family from harm, but it is not always possible.  It is easy to live in a constant state of fear, but fear is not from God and it can cripple us in our every day life, if we allow it to.

After a great week in Florida and Georgia (with Spencer and Chloe) and the opportunity to speak to many people and raise funds for Heart for Africa I got on a plane to Chicago. When I arrived it was snowing and many streets were closed because of flash floods and rivers overflowing.  The McDonalds in this photo was just down the street from my hotel was an “Island” surrounded by water.  Many people lost their homes in these unexpected floods and now have to pick up the pieces of their lives.  We can’t control natural disasters, but they are a part of life and we must help one another when times like these are in front of us.

Meanwhile back in Swaziland the little baby boy who was burned by his father continues to lie in a hospital fighting for his life.  He has 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 20%-25% of his little body and also arrived at the hospital severely malnourished and Anemic.   I am told that he needs to consume 5,000 calories per day in order to get “nutritionally stable” and give his body a chance of living and not dying.  That is pretty hard to do when you are only sipping a cup of water and gnawing on a chicken bone.  We are working on a plan and I will give a full report after I return to Swaziland and am able to share news with you.

These three “news items” don't include so many other critical issues and events that took place both globally and locally, but they are three that caught my attention this week.

I am in awe of the people who are the “first responders” in terrorist attacks, natural disasters and deliberate acts of child abuse.

We saw Firemen, Medical personnel and ordinary everyday people rush to the aid of the bombing victims who lost lives, limbs and blood.  We watched emergency response teams rush in to rescue flood victims while their homes were destroyed.  And I had the honor of watching ordinary everyday people in the US and Canada be deliberate in coming to the assistance of the little boy in Swaziland who was not on the 24-hour news, he was not in the mainstream media, but still needed rescuing from a deliberate act of child abuse.

Last week’s blog prompted an outpouring of prayer, love and financial support from the people who sacrificially gave $10, to other people who gave what they could at that moment, and still others who have committed to do all they can to have this child live a full and un-scared life.  We live in a broken world, full of sin, fear and evil.  But this week I was reminded over and over again that Jesus is securely on the throne, and while I can’t begin to understand the “why” of any of these situations, I am so thankful for people who don’t have to have the “why” question answered in order to help. 

This week I encourage you to take a moment to look around and ask who or how can you provide help and hope for someone today.  You can be a part of something GOOD in someone’s life when a lot around us looks like bad. But we have to be deliberate in our actions, just like the First Responders in this weeks news headlines.

I am in the US for two more days and look forward to spending them with Ann and Doug Williams and their friends and family in Munster, Indiana.  I am thankful for all the people who hosted events for the past three weeks to help us raise awareness and funds for Heart for Africa including:  Shelly & Barry Harp (Texas), Pam Joseph (Georgia), Beth Blaisdell (Georgia), Sandra and Andy Stanley (Georgia), Sandra Green (Georgia), Judy and John Bardis (Nevada & Georgia), Joanne Ivy (Illinois) and Kevin and Karen Burkum (Illinois).  Without your hospitality and commitment many people would have missed the opportunity to be a part of something big that God is doing in Swaziland.  Thank you also to all of you who have given so generously. 

Live from Chicago … its snowing here and I will be heading home on Monday.


PS – a quick update on “Nomsa” from my . Her culture results are still not back so they have sent another one away for testing. We should have results back in 4 more weeks.  Will post as soon as we know.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Father lit his 18-month old baby boy on fire?

Having one foot in “first world” and one foot in “third world” is very disturbing and it is divisive to my soul.

I have been visiting the United States for two weeks and have had two weeks of "extremes".  

I started my travels in “Sin City” Las Vegas where I was invited to be a part of the MedAssets Business Summit with 4,000 other people staying in a hotel that has almost as many rooms (3,309) as we have people in the community surrounding Project Canaan (3,500).  I then got to visit a small town in Texas where the people love Jesus, the Rattlesnakes are waking up and the Tumbleweeds are blowing across the road as you drive past beautiful Cattle Ranches and farms that are feeding America. I can only imagine that one day Project Canaan will be a farm that feeds Swaziland! 

Next, I spent two nights in Georgia with women from the US Bank who have big corporate jobs, but even bigger hearts.  At one well-planned dinner they successfully raised $34,000 to help educate and bring life-changing jobs to women of Swaziland.  While Lori Marschall and Rona Nix were busy in California raising funds for me to have a good, used, 4 x 4 vehicle “baby rescue” vehicle that will navigate the rough roads of Swaziland, the women from WOMENETICS provided me with a brand new Porsche 911 to drive to Florida to see Spencer (!).  It is SO COOL!  

The best part of the whole trip has been getting to visit Spencer!!  He is studying “Business Marketing" at Florida State University (home to 44,000 students, which is half the total population of the Capitol City of Mbabane, Swaziland) and for his extra-curricular activity he is a part of the FSU High Flying Circus.  We get to see him perform several times this weekend  and it makes me wonder if the babies at El Roi will one day have incredible opportunities like that?!  I am thankful to be here and a very proud mama.

Ian and I are so very proud of Spencer and Chloe.
It has been two weeks of extremes, from locations to conversations, but my “snap back into my other reality” came when I received a phone call from Swaziland last week.

There was good news and bad news.   The good news was that Baby #28 had arrived at El Roi and little 10-day old Elisha was happy and healthy.

The bad news rocked my world.  We were contacted by the Social Welfare Department to see if we could make room for and care for an 18-month old baby boy, who had been badly burned by his father.  I asked Shirley and Ian to gather more information and it slowly came to me as the week progressed. Here is some of what we know, and what I feel that I can share with you at this time, while still maintaining some privacy for the family.

“Social problems” as they are called in Swaziland, are always complicated, so I will try to explain this as simply as possible.
-       Woman was married to a man who died a couple of years ago.
-       Woman lives at her dead husbands homestead with his family and has nowhere else to live.
-       Woman gets pregnant by another man (we do not know the circumstances of this pregnancy).
-       Baby is born, but “culture” does not permit a baby from another man to live with the mother in her husbands homestead so baby has to go live with his Grandmother (biological Father’s mother)
-       In January 2013 (baby was 15-months old) the father beat the baby badly around the face.  The issue was settled “culturally” between the families (?) and no police report was made.
-       On March 13th 2013 the Grandmother was working in the fields and came in and found the baby crying.  She called him to come and saw that he could not walk.
-       Grandmother found severe burns covering his buttocks and genitals.
-       I saw a photo of this baby in the newspaper at the end of March and the burns were horrific.  They showed his backside and it looked as if the baby was wearing a diaper and it had been lit on fire.
-       The father said he had accidently spilled boiling water on the boy, but the family does not believe this and neither do the doctors.
-       The father is now in prison.
-       The baby is at the Government hospital and while I want to show full respect for that hospital in this blog, I will say that I do not believe that they have the resources to give this child the care he needs to survive and recover.  I have been there and this child needs private care.
-       When the child is released from the hospital he will need somewhere safe to live. The mother has asked that we take him because she can’t take him to her “home” and the father will be released from prison. The whole family is very concerned about what the father will do when he is released.

The problem is complicated.  I am 8,500 miles away. Once I get back I will be taken to meet the mother, the Grandmother and I will go to the prison to meet the father, but in the meantime I sit on the other side of the planet and think about the pain that this boy and his mother are going through. The next step is to get this child proper care so that he can have a chance at a “normal” life.

I don't know what the future holds as there are many questions that still need answering. I don’t know if this child is to come to the El Roi baby home or if the mother and child are to come and live in the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz, but I do know that EL ROI sees them both and has a plan, and we can help.

I do know that we can do something now, today.  Shirley and Ian have secured a bed at a private hospital in Swaziland who we believe can provide excellent care for this child.  I can’t imagine what this would cost in America, but in Swaziland the cost for the next 60 days is almost $30,000 US, not including surgeries, skin grafts or other things that might be needed.

I know that $30,000 can feed a lot of children or provide care for many babies, but I think about what if the baby was Spencer or Chloe?  What if the baby who has massive burns on 20% of his whole body, and in the most private areas was YOUR child?  If it were my child I would stop at nothing to get him/her proper care.  This mother has no options, she has no one to call, no one to email and no one ask for financial assistance.  She is hopeless.  But I know that she is praying and asking God for help and He is her only hope. She is crying out daily for Him to send an angel and I am hoping that angel is reading this blog.

I will give you all an update after I get back home, but in the meantime I am hoping to raise a minimum of $20,000 so that we can commit to the mother that we will help her and move the baby to a different hospital. Yesterday I posted this need on Facebook and received $1,000 and I am so thankful for those early responders.  We have a long way to go, but I have faith that He will provide.

If you can give today please click here to make a secure donation.  Alternatively you can mail a check to:   Heart for Africa US,  P.O. Box 758 Cape Girardeau, MO 63702
Heart for Africa Canada, P.O. Box 246, Dept HOPE, Pickering, Ontario, L1V 2R4

I live in a world of extremes. I struggle having one foot in “first world” and the other foot in “third world”.  I long to be at home with my husband, my other babies and my Swazi family, but I give thanks for the opportunity to be here in this blessed country and I give thanks for every opportunity that I am being given while here.

Live from Florida … I am going back to the High Flying Circus today (and praying for a baby 8,500 miles away).


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hello Las Vegas? This is Swaziland calling.

It was 2:30AM in Las Vegas (which was 5:30AM in Georgia and 11:30 in Swaziland) when my iPhone rang.  I had it plugged in only to use the alarm to wake me in the morning. It never occurred to me that someone could reach me on it while I was in the United States because it is a Swaziland SIM/phone.

I left Swaziland on Saturday morning, drove to Johannesburg, South Africa on Sunday night, arrived in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday morning then flew on to Las Vegas, Nevada arriving around 1PM at the Mandalay Bay hotel.  Mandalay Bay has 3,309 hotel rooms and an average of 2,000 people checking in and 2,000 people checking out EVERY DAY.  It is a beautiful and monstrous building that is designed to have people spend as much money on leisure, entertainment, eating, drinking and gambling as is humanly possible in the few days that each visitor stays there.  Oxygen is pumped in at an alarming rate to keep you alert and awake and there are no windows to the outside in the entertainment areas so you don't know if it night or day.  It is an experience of a lifetime and one that is not easily forgotten.

The Famous Las Vegas Strip.

When the phone rang I was sound a sleep in a very comfortable King Size bed with a window that looks at the full length of the famous “Las Vegas Strip”.  I have a flat screen TV, full mini-bar, large bathroom with double sink, shower and large bathtub, all made of marble of course, and I am staying there FOR FREE as a guest of John Bardis and the wonderful people of MedAssets.  Several years ago Ian and I were honored to be given the first Dr. Norman Borlaug Humanitarian of the Year award, and we are now invited back each year to celebrate with the new recipient of the award.  We are given a beautiful hotel room, invited to a fabulous meal at the famous Aureole restaurant with Dr. Borlaug’s family (Daughter Jeannie Borlaug Laube and Grand-daughter Jennifer Borlaug Marsh) and get to enjoy meeting many of the 4,000+ attendees of the Healthcare Business Summit.  We have a table set up and can share what is happening at Project Canaan and the El Roi baby home and we have gained much support from people we have met over the past five years in attendance.

In fact, we have met several of our Board members through this annual conference, including Sandra Green, Tom Finucane and Ned Lehman, and are thankful for all the friends who continue to support us as a result of the MedAssets partnership.

Board members Sandra Green and Tom Finucane.

Back to my 2:30 AM phone call.

The phone rang and I was in a dead sleep.  I fumbled around and wasn’t quite sure where the noise was coming from, but eventually rose to the surface of my slumber just in time to answer the phone before the caller gave up.


“Hello Sisi?  Janine, is that you?”

“Yes, its me, who is this??”

“Its XXXX (NAME HELD FOR PRIVACY) from the XXX hospital in Swaziland. I need your help. I have a bad situation.”

By this point I had sat up and turned on my light to try to ascertain where on earth I was.  I was jetlagged and my body was still somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I actually was quite shocked to have a sweet Swazi voice in my ear and then see the opulence of my surroundings when I turned on the light.  Oh my gosh, how could I ever tell her I was in Las Vegas (of all places!).

She continued, “There is a new baby born on Saturday morning and there is a bad situation. Will you come and get the baby?!”

AHHHHH!!!  I am in LAS VEGAS – literally 10,300 miles away from Swaziland. 

It was funny. I had an immediate moment of shame and guilt that I was where I was and she was where she was.  She was doing her job and I was gallivanting in Las Vegas.

But then a gentle voice came to me and assured me that was false guilt.  She was doing her job in Swaziland, and I was doing my job in Las Vegas.  I was reminded that without the word being spread and without people knowing about the plight of abandoned children in Swaziland that people wouldn’t have the opportunity to pray for the babies or give financially to support them.  Sigh.  I knew that was truth.

I told my sweet sister that I was not in the country, but that she could call the office and speak with Shirley or she had Ian’s number and either of them could go and help straight away.  Then she asked the question I had hoped to avoid. She asked where I was?  I am not gonna lie, while I knew that I was where the Lord wanted to me, I just couldn’t bring my self to say,  “Las Vegas Baby!!” and so I told her I was out of the country and that I would be home in a few short weeks, which is absolutely true.

It was a short call.  No clue what it cost, but it was a huge gift to me.  I loved hearing that Swazi voice so far away from me, I loved that the calls are still coming and babies are still being saved and I loved knowing that I didn’t have to be there in person for that baby to find his way home to El Roi.  I am so very thankful for Shirley and Ian and Helen and the whole team at El Roi who seek out, welcome and love each and every baby who is chosen to come and live with us.  

I am on a 22-day Speaking Adventure and today I am on Day 7, which finds me in Dalhart, Texas (about an hour from Amarillo, Texas).  I am honored to be invited here by my friend Shelly Harp and look forward to an amazing weekend of sharing, laughing, selling jewelry and celebrating all that God has done for us at Project Canaan.

On Monday I head to Georgia to reconnect with Chloe (who has been on Spring Break with one of her best friends for the past week) and join up for a couple of days with the amazing women at the US Bank and WLA (Women Leaders in Action).   I get to see my friends at Womenetics as they film a story of how WLA, UPS and Heart for Africa all came to work together for the children of Swaziland.  It is a great story to tell and I will be sure to post the link in a future blog once the video is complete.   Then I speak at Emory University on Thursday and after that Chloe and I head straight down to Florida State University to see Spencer perform multiple shows in the “High Flying Circus”.  I miss my son desperately and look forward to three days with both of my children together.  YIPPPE!!!!

Tumbleweeds are blowing in Texas - just like in the movies!
I started to type that I wish I were in Swaziland right now, but then stopped and deleted that sentence.  I don’t wish I were there, but rather I am glad I am here, right were I am supposed to be. I am thankful for all the invitations to come and share the story of Project Canaan. I am thankful for all the planning that my assistant Tricia did to make the plan work from coast to coast and north to south. But mostly I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for the next 15 days.  I feel like it is Christmas morning and there are many gifts under the tree to be opened.  Every one is a surprise and look forward to seeing what He has wrapped up for us all.

Live from Texas … the tumbleweeds are blowing!


PS – the baby is not at El Roi yet.  The paperwork is being completed with the Social Welfare department and we expect our little baby boy next week.  Stay tuned!

Update photo of the new Toddler home (left) and preschool (back center).