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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Everything is dying – we are in a crisis here!

Some of you know that we are praying for rain.  Two of our dams are dry and the Living Water dam is almost too low to pump water and irrigate our crops.  There is no way for us to know how much water is left in the wells that we get our drinking water from.

But our irrigated fields still look green, while the hills surrounding us remain brown, or on fire due to the dry grass and high winds.
The fire up behind the Emseni Children's home last night.  Photo Credit: Chris Cheek.
In June 2015 it was predicted that the drought that was ensuing would kill an estimated 200,000 cattle if there was not immediate government intervention.

Today I sat down with Anthony and got a report from our work in the surrounding community and with our 27 church partners and I was given a much deeper understanding of what  “drought” really means today in Swaziland.

The number of children seeking food in each of our church partners has increased by 25% in the past two months.

But I was confused.  I asked why the lack of water now would be cause more children to be hungry, when the food they are eating now would have been grown in last years crop?  Here is how it was explained to me.

The maize that is the staple to the Swazi diet is planted in October/November and harvested in March/April.  It is then dried and stored, to be eaten throughout the year.  The harvests in the past decade have decreased and so the maize has not lasted from one year to the next.  Swazi’s have used the “early rains” which typically start falling in mid-September through October to plant back yard gardens, which provides with healthy food quickly while they wait for their maize to be planted and harvested.  Also, they typically are required to sell a cow or some goats to pay for seeds, fertilizer and food to get the family through the gap.

The drought is killing the cattle and thereby leaving Swazi’s in an even more dire situation.  Even we at Project Canaan have lost 5 cows in the past month.  Sickness, heat, snakes and disease are hard to manage even when you have full-time dairy staff, outside expertise and veterinarian support.  The rural Swazi has none of these. 

So, here is what is happening.

There are no cows to sell because thousands have already died and the ones that are still alive are too thin and sickly to sell.  There have been no early rains so the ground is hard and dry and gardens cannot be prepared and planted.  Even many of our church partners who had access to year-around water no longer have it and their gardens have died. 

I also received more deadly news from Gebeni, the community beside us. I was told that there are many people there who are on ART (Anti-retroviral Treatment) for HIV/AIDS who are now stopping their treatment because they know that proper nutrition is a critical part of the efficacy of the medication that is so hard on their internal organs.  Going off treatment will make their infectiousness increase and death will come faster.  UGH!

I did receive some good news while I was in Taiwan, and that was that King Mswati III made a public declaration that the drought was officially over. We are thankful for that and look forward to the rain falling soon.

In the meantime, if you can contribute to our ongoing feeding program we would very much appreciate it.  Thanksgiving is right around the corner and maybe you would consider making one less pie or reduce the variety of wonderful treats and instead give to help us feed the orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland?  A $50 donation will purchase 110 pounds of maize, which will feed up to 250 children.

Live from Swaziland … please pray for rain!


Another interesting article:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

She was sent to an “initiation camp” (sex camp) when she was 11-years old.

I have been in Taiwan for the past two weeks as a guest of the 10th International Youth Conference that Mr. Lewis Lu hosts each year.  A big part of this event is fundraising and awareness building for Heart for Africa.  This year Mr. Lu made an incredible addition to the conference called the 2015 Malala Youth Award.  

I am sure you remember young Malala Yousafzai, a Pakastani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.  She is known mainly for being shot in the head and then rising up with a passion and advocating for education and for women in her native Pakistan.  She is who this award was designed and named after.  

One of the recipients of this new award was a young lady named Memory Banda.  She is 18-years old and is from the southern part of Malawi.  In her culture young girls are taken to “initiation camps” or “sex camps” as soon as they start menstruating.  The camp is two weeks long and it is a secret what is taught and done at the camp.  The camp was designed generations ago to welcome girls to womanhood. They are taught about sex, pregnancy, childbirth, child care, how to sexually please your husband and how to provide care for your husband and as many children as he decides you should have. At the end of the camp a man from the community is paid to come and have sex with the girls, and prepare them for marriage.  

Girls who had gone through the initiation camp were not allowed to tell the younger girls what had happened to them. After all, it was all a part of becoming a woman. Memory refused to go to the camp when she was of the right age because she had a bad feeling about it. But her refusal was met by a serious scolding by the elders in the community and resulted in her being ostracized because of her disrespect and rebelliousness.    Shortly thereafter her 11-year-old sister got her period and was sent to the camp.  When she returned home, she had changed. She was quiet, reclusive and afraid, but she would not talk about the camp other than to say that she was now a woman.  

Several months later it was discovered that Memory’s sister was pregnant – a result of the forced sex (rape) at the sex camp.  Even though the pregnancy was not of her doing, the family was ashamed and she was forced to marry the man who had raped her.  Memory was devastated for her sister and at that moment vowed to change the archaic cultural practices that invaded the lives and took away the rights of the girls of Malawi.  

Memory worked diligently with the other girls in her community, and many girls clubs were started through an NGO called “Girls Empowerment Network”.  On weekends they would meet and talk about human rights, gender equality as well as topics such as reproductive health and safety.  At that time the legal marrying age in Malawi was 15-years old, but that law was not enforced in the rural communities.   

That network of girls grew exponentially and as Memory said, “Once the girls united, we amplified our voices”.  Within a few years the girls were in front of Parliament and the legal marrying age was changed to 16 and then later to 18.  
Laws are a very important part of change in any country, but particularly when it relates to gender based violence or human inequality.  While the rural communities may continue to marry girls at a young age, there are now laws, and education around those laws, by which the girls can seek assistance.

Khalidi Mngulu, Mrs. Dlamini (the Ambassador from Swaziland's wife) and Memory Banda.
I learned a lot from Memory this week as well as Khalidi Mngulu from Tanzania who is the youth representative for the country speaking out on behalf of the Albino community.  Albino’s in many African countries are considered “lucky” (in a superstitious way) and if people want to get rich they often cut off body parts of Albinos (arms, ears, fingers, legs) and take them to the local witch doctor to be made in to a powerful potion.  We don’t see that in Swaziland, we see albinos being killed and sacrificed whole, not in pieces.

Oh Africa, my beloved Africa.  Why am I drawn to you so?

The students at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ready to present the challenges of their countries.
I am forever changed by the young people I met this week, and while the things I learned will never be forgotten, I am more hopeful that the youth of today is preparing a revolution of change.  As a dear friend said to me this week, “Something’s gotta give."

Live from the Hong Kong airport ... I am going home.  


Saturday, October 17, 2015

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

I had an “ah ha” moment this week while I was preparing to speak to 300 students at Changhua Senior High School in Taiwan.

I was talking about the topic of hope.  Then I talked about hopelessness.  Then I talked about evil.  And as I prepared for my presentation a link between the three became very clear to me.

I used three examples of hopelessness; Baby Shirley, Baby River and Little Phephile.

Baby Shirley’s mother was hopeless, so much so that she felt the only option she had was to dump her newborn baby in a pit latrine and then dump fire on top of her and left her to die.

Shirley "before".
Shirley "after".
Baby River’s mother was so hopeless that after she gave birth to him she put him in a plastic bag and then dumped him in the river, and left him to be eaten by river crabs.

River "before".
River "after".
Little Phephile’s mother was so hopeless that she was powerless to stop a year of abuse by family members that resulted in Phephile’s arm to be broken in five places and her leg broken in two places.

Phephile "before".
Phephile "after".
I find that people who hear these stories are quick to judge these mothers and call them “evil”.  They are also quick to sentence them for their crimes and demand the harshest of punishment.  But I don’t see it that way. I have looked directly in to the eyes of Shirley’s mother and Phephile’s mother and what I saw was hopelessness.  They were empty, dead inside, with no options, and no hope.

I showed my Taiwanese students before and after photos of these three children. The before photos represented hopelessness, and the after photos represented hope.  And then showed them a quote by Edmund Burke that I find very powerful.  It says: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Could it be that hopelessness turns in to evil when good men and women do nothing?

Could it be that River, Shirley and Phephile would not have had to suffer if their mothers could have found people who cared and acted to help them before their hopeless turned to an act of evil?

Oh how I wish we could have helped these young women when they were in need rather than having to try to put the pieces back together after their babies were injured.

After my speech was finished a young man came up to me and was visibly moved. He said that he has always wanted to stand up against injustice and make a difference in the world, but he has always been told that he wasn’t good enough and would never make a difference. I told him that he had been told lies, that he was powerful beyond measure.  Later in the day he sent me a message that read, “Today, after listening to your speech, l felt something turned to be different in my heart.”

Working and living in Africa has taught me that hope is life-saving, and life-giving.  And hopelessness is life-taking and life-threatening. 

On my darkest days when I am discouraged or wanting to give up it is inevitable that I get an message from someone from around the world writing to encourage me and remind me to keep my eyes on our only true hope … Jesus. Those words are always timely and are exactly what I needed to hear.

I pray that each of us will reach out to others with words of true HOPE when we feel prompted to do so.  You may just save a life.

Live from Taiwan … I am hopeful.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Pastor was panicking.

Last November there was a small team of people who came to Swaziland from The Village Christian Church in Minooka, Illinois, including the Pastor, Nate Ferguson.  Pastor Nate started the church in 2004 with only 40 people in it's first congregation.

Pastor Nate’s sister, Sarah Windham, travelled with him as well as his brother Jeremy and his wife Raelenna and a couple of their children.  Nate was very interested in what we are doing at Project Canaan and asked LOTS of questions, with the hope of finding some way for their church to get involved. 

They came up with the idea of getting their church involved in selling Heart for Africa Christmas Tree Ornaments. They wanted to do something BIG that would require God to be involved for them to be successful.  They asked if they could order 2,000 ornaments!! WHAT?! That would be $20,000 US in sales! Of course our answer was “yes!”

I believe it was only a few minutes later that Pastor Nate started to panic.  You see, they are in the middle of a Capital Campaign for a new church building, the church is in growth mode, they are adding staff, expanding mission team and now, they were selling Christmas Tree Ornaments.   The family went to their knees, and prayed, and He heard their prayers.

Two Sunday’s ago they launched their Ornament Campaign to their 400 church members.  Sarah made up 40 bags with 26 ornaments ($260) and 96 bags with 10 ornaments ($100).  By the end of the day 1,400 ornaments had left with church members who were committed to selling them and brining the money back by November 1st

Why did she pack them in bags of 26?  Well, for every 26 ornaments that sell, we can fully cover all the costs for one child at the El Roi Baby home for a month (food, bottles, diapers, clothes, medical, Aunties, night shift etc).  Not to mention that we are employing 54 full time people on Project Canaan JUST to make these ornaments!

Eight days later they only had 10 ornaments left out of the 2,000 we had shipped them.

Yesterday Sarah ordered 300 more … and it was only October 9th.

Here is a short history of this idea.  In 2013 (October and November only) we handmade and sold 1,200 Angel ornaments.  In 2014 we handmade and sold 8,000 Angel and Tree ornaments.  This year we have handmade and sold approximately 11,000 up to today, October 10th, and we made 12,000 of them in total (!).  

We only have Stars and Trees in stock in the US right now as our Angels have completely sold out, BUT we are going back in to full production at Khutsala Artisans on Monday morning and we will have more beautiful ornaments in the US office by the end of October.

I am told that Pastor Nate has calmed down, has completely seen the hand of God on this and no doubt is thankful for his sister’s tenacity, organizational skills and faith!  While he is thrilled to be able to support us in a significant financial way, his heart’s desire is to tell people about what God is doing through Heart for Africa in Swaziland, and clearly that is being accomplished.

I am so very proud of Pastor Nate, Sarah and the entire church for taking this leap of faith. It is so exciting to see how excited YOU are and how blessed you are being for your commitment. Thank you for being such a great example of people who step out in faith, and then watch to see what God does. 

If any of you want to play a bigger part in the 2016 Heart for Africa Christmas ornament Campaign, please email me directly at 

But in the meantime, it’s time to order your ornaments by CLICKING HERE.

At this time we do not have an online store on our Canadian website, but you may email Stephanie for Canadian orders –

Thank you for shopping and for your support.

Live from Swaziland … I am taking Christmas ornament orders to Taiwan tomorrow!


PS  If you live in the Minooka, Illinois area and want to buy ornaments from them please call The Village Christian Church at 815-467-2265 and ask for Super Sarah :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Trying not to be completely freaked out in Swaziland

My computer crashed this week.

Ian backed his up then erased his computer so I could access some pertinent info on my backup storage.

I started to sweat when he did that. 

It appears that my backup is corrupt.

All of my info for 20 years, including 12,000 photos, all presentations, documents, contacts, everything.

And yes, I back up regularly. 

I am typing this short blog on my phone, trying not to stroke out while Ian tries to restore and older backup.  It will take 2.5 more hours.  I am talking myself down off the edge. 

Live from Swaziland ...praying to El Roi who sees me (and my computer).



PS. Ian's last try did not work.  Now he is trying to restore his computer. It says 7 hours 35 minutes left.