On May 31st, 2012 the Maxwell family boarded a plane and moved to eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland) to live at Project Canaan. I hope to update my blog on Saturday mornings and share, as honestly as I can, the highs and lows of our life in Africa. We are living on a farm in a remote part of this tiny Kingdom and are serving the community as well as the orphans and vulnerable children of the nation. Thanks for joining us.
On Thursday Ian and I drove a group of people back to
Johannesburg to start their 15 – 30 hour journeys home.We decided to drop them off, run some
errands in Joburg, go out for dinner on a “date night” and then take a
leisurely drive back to Swaziland on Friday.
One of the errands was to look for “Bumbo” seats, which we
need at the El Roi Baby home.Our
team had found them in Swaziland, but they cost around $50 US each, and we need
20 of them so the thought of spending $1,000 US on seats for our babies was
Ian and I found them for $38 US so I called back to
Swaziland to cancel our order, which, was only minutes from having a deposit
put down!Ian stood at the check
out counter at Baby City and asked to speak with the Manager about getting a
discount for making such a large purchase AND of course share WHO was going to
be using those seats.It’s
quite common here to ask for a discount and it almost always results in a 10%
reduction in price, which would then have taken us to under $35 US per chair.
Just then a lady walked up to Ian and told him that she was
the Sales Representative for the Bumbo competition chair.She said she had overheard his
conversation about the babies in Swaziland and had already called her boss to
see if they could help us out. She explained that their chairs are specifically
designed for an African baby’s shape and they were manufactured in South
Africa, then she gave us the phone number for her boss and said that “Louise”
was waiting for our call.
I called Louise at the Snappi Baby Seat company and she told
me that they would be happy to sell us the seats at her cost and deliver them
to anywhere in Johannesburg!Well,
her cost was $10 US and since their warehouse in Pretoria was on our way home
to Swaziland we said we would stop by and pick them up.Forty minutes later we were at the
Snappi warehouse and decided to buy 40 of them (store 20 in the baby home
storage container) and spent $400 US. Then she gave us another 10 seats for
free for a total of 50.
To review the numbers, we were to spend $1,000 US on 20
seats.We ended up spending $400
US on 50 seats for an average cost of $8 US.
It was a chance meeting at a Baby City store in
Johannesburg.We stopped at
several other stores before we stopped there, but the timing was perfect and we
saved a lot of money.
Yesterday we clearly saw the hand of God and it made me ask
the question, why?Why would God
care about the price of chairs? Isn’t it all His money anyway? We work diligently
to stretch every penny that is donated to us by our donors, but ultimately we
believe that those funds come from Him.But when this story unfolded yesterday we felt God so very close to us
in the van.When we told Louise
the story of some of our children she wept.When we showed her the photos of Deborah’s burned body, she
wept, and gave us more Snappi Baby Chairs.
Was our meeting at Baby City a “chance” encounter?Was our drive through Pretoria a “chance”
drive?I don’t think so.
the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never
overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the
last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!Luke
12:7 The Message Bible
And in other news … we got two more babies this
morning!!A newborn girl named
Patricia and a newborn boy named Ezra, both abandoned by their mothers. Ezra
was left in an empty garbage can/drum and Patricia put in a plastic bag and dumped
in a pit latrine after birth.The
babies were born 3 days apart and both have had positive HIV rapid tests and
are on treatment. They are home at the El Roi Baby home where they will be
loved and cared for.
El Roi, the God who sees, saw us at Baby City, He saw Louise
in her warehouse and He saw Ezra and Patricia when they were abandoned by their
mothers, and He saw the mother’s in their hopelessness.It’s hard to grasp the depth and
breadth of His love for us, but I know that God really does care about the
little stuff.I hope you do too
This past week we celebrated two birthdays for two boys who
turned 4-years old. People laugh at me when I refer to them as the “big kids”,
but they are our big kids and they are miracles.
For those of you who don’t know Caleb and Emmanuel, let me
tell you their short life stories.
Caleb was born on July 11, 2011,and he was given to us in a
cardboard box by his own father.
I was not in Swaziland when Helen went to pick up Caleb, but
I am told it was a very traumatic day, for everyone. Caleb’s mother had died of
HIV/AIDS related illness leaving her husband and baby with full-blown AIDS.
The father had no means to provide Caleb with food,
clothing, love or life-saving medication and so Caleb was in and out of the
hospital for malnutrition and HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Some times the father
would stop the medication completely, leaving Caleb resistant to 1st
line medication.The Doctors and
Baylor clinic worked with the hospital Social Worker to find a solution and
that is how Caleb arrived at the El Roi Baby home.
He was a very sick baby when he arrived with lesions all
over his body, raw and open wounds and eyes that were filled with sheer
terror.There were days when Helen
thought that we might lose him to the disease that was trying to steal his
life, but El Roi saw him. With special love, food, medication and praying
without ceasing,his little body returned
from the brink of death caused by the effects of poverty and AIDS.
Caleb will be on his ART (Anti-retroviral treatment) for
life, or until a cure is found or he is healed.It is a twice-daily routine that cannot be missed.While Caleb is a happy and active boy
who celebrated his fourth birthday on July 11th, he is still wearing
clothes that are size 12-18 months (!) and he is on a special high calorie diet
to try to put meat on his bones.
Caleb is loved by all and we give thanks for this little
Emmanuel was born on July 17, 2011 and came to us
malnourished and puffy from Kwashiorkor.
I was living in Swaziland when the Social Welfare office
called about him and had the opportunity to meet his young mother.She was only 16-years old, she already
had one child and was pregnant with another.She came from a very poor family and had been working in
prostitution for several years by that time. The pregnancies were a result of
that life.Emmanuel was a severely
malnourished and sick baby so we had him admitted to the hospital immediately
after we were given custody.He
was almost 1-year old when he came to us, but only had the development of a
4-month old baby. His (ineffective) diaper was a plastic bag.
The mother asked us to take the new baby when he/she was
born, but when the time came she gave birth in an outdoor bus stop and ran away
with the baby and refused to give up the child. We have since learned that she
had a fourth child and then a set of twins!We pray for her and her other five children and we give
thanks that Emmanuel (also known as “Manny” or “Emma”) is with us.
These are only two stories out of the 96 babies who now live
at Project Canaan.I often find
myself saying that each child’s story is worse than the next one, but El Roi
sees them all and has chosen each child to live at Project Canaan. Why only
Emmanuel and not his siblings I do not know, but I trust in the Lord with all
my heart and soul and give thanks for each and every life He sends to us
Live from Swaziland … Happy birthday Caleb and Emmanuel!
I am really sick and tired of newspaper headlines that announce
that yet another young Swazi child has been raped, infected with HIV and/or
pregnant.What is wrong with these
We currently have 15 babies who were born to mothers who were raped between
the ages of 12 and 15.We have
another 15 babies who were found in pit latrines, wrapped in garbage bags or
dumped in a river and we will never know how old those mothers were, but I can
guess that they were all very young, very afraid and very ashamed. Many other babies came from victims of rape, but over the age of 16-years.
It’s happening all over the country and in many cases is being
hidden from the police and Social Welfare so the criminals can continue the
terror that they put on young girls who can’t speak out for fear of being
killed.In so many African
countries (not just Swaziland) a girl’s body is not her own, it belongs to her
father, grandfather, uncles, cousins and brothers. What kind of a man takes joy
in having sex with his own daughter, granddaughter, sister or niece?
In Swaziland it’s hidden under something called “tibitenhlu”, which is a common
expression here used to mean “keep it hidden and in the house/family”.In English we might say “sweep it under
the rug or keeping things hidden behind closed doors”, but tibitenhlu has a more sinister meaning of hiding things within the
This past week I have been directly involved in a case of a
15-year old girl who was raped by her uncle for 4 years (and infected with HIV)
and then for another year by another uncle and impregnated. The second case is
one of a 12-year old who was raped by a family member and is now pregnant at
the age of 13.
I am sick of it.
This will be a short rant, but rapists be warned.I believe that Swazi's will rise up and start reporting you to the police and you will be imprisoned. You can also be assured that there is a special place in hell for you.
First, may I take a moment to wish all of our American
friends around the world a Happy 4th of July!We are thankful for you and all you do
to help us here in Swaziland.
Now, back to the headline.
This week was like so many others, filled with crazy drives,
crazier conversations and lots of hospital.
We started the week getting our two small Jack Russell
Terriers spayed.When the
veterinarian came out after the surgeries he told us that he had done a
hysterectomy on both of them based on some serious irregularities that he had
only see a few times in his whole career.
Two days later we had to take in one of our Boerboel dogs
(Georgia) for cosmetic eye surgery (I am not kidding).Her eyelashes fold in to her eyes
rather than sticking out to catch dust so she struggled seeing and always had
eye infections.She now can see
much better, but did not AT ALL being locked up for a night while here stitches
started to heal and ate her way through the wooden door (and propane tank)
holding her captive. To quote Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing”, “Nobody puts
Baby in the corner”.
The next few are all human stories.
We got great news this week that two of our babies who had
been on TB treatment were now cleared and finished their medication. That was
awesome and life-giving news!
And the highlight for dozens of Project Canaan workers this
week (in the medical world) was the arrival of Dr. Stuart Coe and his 17-year
old daughter Kenna. They came from Alpharetta, GA to practice dentistry and
spent Monday – Friday working 7AM to 6PM to help people with major dental
Under less than ideal circumstances including equipment
malfunction, daily power outages, communication challenges and some very
complicated cases, they managed to extract 31 teeth, fill 59 teeth, take 80
x-rays on THE MOST AMAZING PORTABLE X-RAY MACHINE THAT WAS LOANED TO STUART and
do the equivalent of $33,000 US in dental work (that is R396,000 in free dental
All in all it’s been a great week.This afternoon we expect 20 students from Changhua Senior
High School in Taiwan to join us for the weekend.We look forward to having our friend Mr. Lewis Lu back
Live from Swaziland … I must rush to the highway where the
students bus just broke down.