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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Time warp: Traveling from “Third” World to “First” World and back

Traveling from Swaziland to America and back is a challenge.  It’s not the 20 hours of travel each way nor it is the jet lag, but rather it is the fundamental differences between the worlds that I find exhilarating and exhausting.

Take for example FREE High Speed Internet Services.  In America WI FI is available in almost every store, restaurant and office building.  FREE. HIGH SPEED.  WI FI!  We can’t find that combination in Swaziland.  Internet is expensive and we pay by the MB.  It is not High Speed (ever), but we are thankful that it is no longer dial up (which it was when we first started serving here).  Internet comes and goes and we are thankful when it is here.  There have been many times that it has taken me days to load this blog (starting on a Thursday so that it is loaded for Saturday).  While I LOVED having access to that wonderful service during my visit to the US I will admit that I found myself downloading the latest book, song or TV series when I could have been talking to my son, who was sitting right beside me.  Hmmm.  Maybe I am not the only one who has done that.  I regret those lost minutes together now that I am back in the Third World.  Lost forever.

Another fundamental difference is the concept of Capitalism.  Almost everyone in America understands Capitalism and it flavors everyday conversations and decisions the way salt flavors most of the things we eat.  I want to give a HUGE SHOUT OUT to the WLA Ladies from the US Bank.  They have been pushing me (ever so nicely) to send them hand made jewelry, grass bowls, scarves and spoons to be ready to do a huge sale at the US Bank office and at the Fall Womenetics Event at the Georgia Aquarium last week.  These women understand capitalism and when I gave them the “suggested retail price” they said, “what?? That is too cheap!  We need to sell it for more.”  I am thankful for them because 100% of the profits from the sale of these hand made Swazi items is going to finish building the Khutsala Artisans Shop on Project Canaan.  Not only do we pay the women making these items, which allows them to support their families, but we are building for the future of  women on Project Canaan.

With combined sales at the US Bank office in Alpharetta and the amazing Womenetics Conference the ladies sold $25,000+ of hand made goods.  That is one of the beautiful things about Americans – they are generous and want to help when they can. Thank you to each and every person who purchased a piece of jewelry or who made a donation so that they could be a part of an exciting new endeavour on Project Canaan.

It is now 7:30PM Swazi time.  I slept until 2PM today and am now awake to write this blog.  While I write this, Ian is grilling steaks for our dear friends from the American Egg Board who are visiting us for the weekend (Joanne Ivy, Bruce and Deb Dooyema) so this blog will be short.

Tomorrow is a big day.  We are officially moving the first four women in to the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz and two of them will start making jewelry for the Khutsala Artisans Shop on Monday.   We hope that the move will bring hope to them and their children and will be a tiny part of changing the future of this Kingdom.

Live from Swaziland … I am happy to be back to my simple way of living in this world.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Beautiful jewelry made by beautiful women. Now available to you!

“Khutsala” means “hard working”.

The Khutsala Artisans Shop is a building that has been designed to employ, train and empower Swazi women through the art of jewelry making, crocheting and sewing. 
The Royal

The Khutsala Artisan Shop is located within the gates at Project Canaan near the chapel and it sports a magnificent view of the vegetable fields on the farm.  A huge concrete pad was poured and three 40-foot containers dragged in to position to make a unique work and retail destination at Project Canaan. Next week we have a team of men going to Swaziland from the US who will cut holes in these containers to make doors and windows and finish the insides of each container with shelving, storage and office space for the Khutsala Artisans.  It will be nothing short of extraordinary when it is complete (thanks to the wonderful and talented Jamie Klee!).

On October 1st we plan to officially open the Khutsala Artisans Shop and begin working with two special women who we have come to know and love.  They are two women who have been chosen to live in the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz and want to be gainfully employed at Project Canaan. We know that in the future there will be dozens of women (and some men) who will work at the Khutsala Artisans Shop and be able to provide food, clothing, education and a future for their children and extended families.  Employment and training is at the core of this important new project.

Hand painted Batik infinity scarves by Baobab Batik.
In April 2013 a group of talented and wonderful women came to Swaziland to work on designs that would incorporate local materials (i.e. hand made ceramic beads from the wonderful women at Imvelo in Manzini), with current western fashion so that all items made would be quickly purchased in the US and Canadian markets.  We have dipped our toes in to the market place here with a few pieces and have been met with positive response beyond our imaginations.

There were SO many outstanding prototypes designed that our greatest challenge was which ones to start with. I have attached photos of a few of those pieces. The scarves and Project Canaan Angel Christmas tree ornaments are available now in our online store.  The other pieces will go in to production on October 1st. 

Nomsa's necklace
Litsemba "hope" bracelet
Project Canaan Angel Christmas ornament
Heart for Africa key chain or Christmas tree ornament
Stay tuned for more information on this new and exciting project in the weeks and months to come.

Live from Atlanta, Georgia … I LOVE selling African jewelry!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Three of our babies specifically need your prayers.

Today’s blog is dedicated to three of our special babies who need prayer. Of course they are all special and they all need prayer, but these three have challenges that I want to share with you.


Some of you may not know who Solomon is.  He is counted in our “40”, but we hope that one day he will be returned to his mother (she is moving to the Sicalo Lesisha Kibbutz at Project Canaan with her 5-year old at the beginning of October).  If you go back and read my blog at you will learn about how we first met Solomon.  After giving his father a job and taking his mother and Solomon to the hospital to start on HIV medication (and treatment for severe malnutrition) we thought we had helped in a way that the family could move forward together and not have to abandon their children.

Well, the father didn't like working for a living and quit working at Project Canaan after a couple weeks. The mother and child started HIV treatment, but she just couldn’t seem to get Solomon stabilized (the child was HIV positive from birth, but the mother hid it from the father so the child needlessly went without treatment for 13 months).    Eventually the father ran off with another woman and impregnated her, leaving the mother with a very sick baby (so she could not work because she had to care for him).  I received a call from the hospital Social Worker one day and she asked me to come and meet a mother and baby in extreme need.  When I arrived I saw Solomon and his mom and knew their story.  After several hours of talking, praying and trying to find another possible solution, the hospital and mother begged me to take the child, and I did.

Solomon is now 15-months old.  He has Stage 4 HIV (AIDS) and his CD4 count is less than 200. He has extreme muscle wasting (i.e. he can’t put any weight on his legs and doesn’t sit on his own) severe weight loss and frequent infections that make him really sick which causes him to lose more weight.  He is suffering from malnutrition and only weighs 8.1 kg (17 lbs), which is 3% less than his age group.  His Gross Motor Skilss are at a 2-4 month old level and his verbal skills are at a 6-9 month old level.  Solomon is a very sick little boy and we are struggling to keep him alive and well. 
Our prayer is that he will stabilize, start to grow as healthy food and Anti-Retroviral medication start to work in his body and that his body will heal as he is given tender loving care and lots of prayer.  Our hope is that once he is healthy and stable and once his mother is also stable and working well, that we can reunite this child with his mother and brother and they can live happily together.  This may take a year or more, but we are committed them.  Please pray with us for this entire family.


Little Beth came to us after her mother handed the baby to a neighbor and said she was going to the toilet, but never returned to get her child.  The neighbor took Beth to the hospital and left her there, as this single young man was unable to care for a stranger’s newborn child.  Beth is a sweet, beautiful, happy child and a joy to have at El Roi.  She is now 5-months old and recently we became suspicious that there might be something wrong with Beth as her head always leaned to the left and her left eye was starting to droop slightly.  This past week she went to see the doctor and was diagnosed with mild Cerebral Palsy.  The doctor assumes that she had a head injury at or near birth and she also has weakened/damaged muscles on the left side of her neck.  We are uncertain as to whether she can see out of her left eye, but will have that tested next week.  Beth will also start Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy for my Canadian readers) and we hope to help her strengthen as she continues to grow.  Please pray with us for complete healing for Little Beth.


Sweet Grace came to us after having a rough start to life.  She as left on the side of the road by her mother because she was sick and the mother wanted to go see her boyfriend.  Grace was in a coma by the time someone took her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with Menegitis and Tuberculosis.  When her fever finally broke and Grace awoke from the coma the doctor discovered that she was blind.  After several weeks the doctor was convinced that she could see again and her body was well enough that he discharged her to her Aunt, but sadly the Aunt had no means to care for this baby. Grace had regressed and at the age of 14-months was not able to sit, crawl, or even roll over.  That is when the Aunt took the child to the Social Welfare department for help and that is how Grace came to us.

When we got her we didn’t know that she was blind or sick, we just knew she needed help. The Aunt really just handed her off and left – no mention of medication, treatment or blindness!  She has now been also diagnosed with Hydro-Cephalus (water on the brain) and Cerebral Palsy.   Grace is taken to Physical Therapy sessions once a week and the Aunties work with her daily to strengthen her muscles. She is such a sweet baby and loves to be held and loved. 

When I was in Taiwan last month I was speaking at a Literature Conference for High School students. At the end of the day a young blind girl was brought to meet me.  We had our photo taken together and I told her about our little blind baby back in Swaziland.  The 16-year old turned her head towards me and said, “I am blind and I am a Christian. I will pray that Grace is completely healed and that one day she will see”.  I almost fell apart in front of 200 Taiwanese students, but managed to keep it together until I got to the car.  I too believe that Grace’s sight will be restored, even though her eye examination shows that would be impossible, but nothing is impossible for the God I serve.

I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to Helen Muli, Thabile Mbhamali, Gcebile Shongwe and all the other women who care for and love the children at Project Canaan.  They are the ones who change the diapers, administer the medication, clean up the vomit and wipe away the tears on a day-to-day basis.  They are angels here on earth and we give thanks for their selfless service.

Today, and every day, we are praying for complete healing for Solomon, Beth and Grace.  We also pray for mental, emotional and spiritual healing for all the children that have been brought to us for safekeeping.  El Roi, the God Who Sees them, loves them very much and we are thankful that He has sent each of these precious children to us “for such a time as this”.

Live from South Africa … I am giving thanks for health and life.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Today was the big day .. moving day for our toddlers!

Today was an amazing day.  It was the fulfillment of a dream that began in March when the groundbreaking for the Labakhetsiwe Toddler Home.  Labakhetsiwe means “the chosen ones” and our children have certainly been hand chosen by God to live at Project Canaan.

Peter Muli, and Mark Klee have done a great job with the design, planning and building of this large and beautiful home.  Their construction team has done the impossible and completed this building in 5+ short months, and not without challenges (that would be an understatement).  We are thankful for the people who gave financially for the building itself as well as all who provided funds for the furnishings and appliances.  As of today, we are fully funded (thank you friends in Canada who finished up the last of that need).
The ladies making dinner for the big babies and our Aunties.

Cameron has become a true African.
Today we moved 11 children to their new home, new bed and new environment.  We moved 7 Aunties (caregivers) who love the children every day and are called to raise up this future generation.  We moved 11 other “crawlers” over to the toddler home temporarily so that we can do a deep clean, fumigation and repair of the El Roi baby home.  Next week after all the work at El Roi is complete the 11 “crawlers” and 18 “tinies” (who are currently living at Kuthula Place away from the chaos of the move).

Labakhetsiwe has room for 56 toddlers and El Roi now has a bit more room for a few more babies.  We have 40 children in total right now (having received another set of twins last week  - Michael and Matthew).  So 11 will live at Labakhetsiwe and 29 at El Roi.  As soon as Jeremiah, Andrew, Paul and Ishmael are walking a bit better they will move over with the “big kids” and free up 4 spaces at El Roi. 
Thankful for our ladies from Texas who are here to serve.

We are all tired, but invigorated and encouraged by seeing the hand of God on this project each and every day.  I want to give a special shout out to Lori Marschall, Shelly Harp, Michelle Cover and Linda Hunter who all came from the US to help with this mammoth move.  We are always thankful for all of our volunteers and amazing Swazi and Kenyan staff.  You are all a joy to serve with.

With that I will stop writing and just show you photos from the day. I am sure you will enjoy them!
Boys bedroom

Living room.

Caregivers bedroom (Amber and Kenny)

Live from Swaziland … I am filled with joy.