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Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 – a wonderful and difficult year.

Miriam taking cookies from the Oasis, down to the toddlers. Be still my heart.
Photo credit: Chris Cheek

As the year comes to a close I wanted to share a few beautiful photos of the children at Project Canaan and give you just a quick glance of a wonderful and difficult year.

In 2015:

·      We received 21 children in 2015 giving us a total of 106 orphaned and abandoned babies (under the age of 5-years) whom we are legal guardians for until they finish High School.
·      We built 15 buildings including Emseni East and the Oasis where the big children live and eat.
·      Khutsala Artisans made and sold 13,000+ Christmas tree ornaments (thank you everyone who bought and sold them for us!).
·      Through our partnership with the International Egg Foundation and the Egg Farmers of Canada we will receive a flock of 2,500 chickens arriving on January 4th that will provide fresh eggs to feed the children of Swaziland.
·      We have a total of 30 church partners now, where we feed 2,100+ children every week. Starting in January they will all get a hard boiled, peeled, egg with each meal.
·      We are in the worst drought in recorded history which has made it impossible for people to plant their annually crops, it has killed thousands of farm animals and has sent maize prices soaring (expected to rise by 65% in the next 3 months).
·      We have seen miracle after miracle and have watched the mighty hand of God at work in the lives of people all over the world who are being called to help the children of Swaziland. 

On Christmas day Ian, Spencer, Chloe and I celebrated as we always do: stockings, coffee, gifts, Belgian waffles and lots of laughter. Since moving to Swaziland our tradition has expanded to include preparing a special brunch for all of the big kids (68) and all of our caregivers (54) and a few special guests.  Pancakes, bacon, fruit salad, whip cream and maple syrup are on the menu and everyone leaves full and sticky! Each child also received a beautifully wrapped pair of new pajamas and everyone was happy.

I am not sure there is any greater gift than to be able to serve these little children and all of the Aunties/Uncles who live with them 24/7 and are helping raise the future leaders of this nation. That is NOT an easy job. I also want to express my thanks for all of our long-term and short-term volunteers who come and serve so selflessly.  Each person contributes in a different way and we are thankful for each skill and ability they have been gifted with.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog this year, for your words of encouragement and for your support.   Thank you also for those who have given financially so that we could complete the work given to us to do.   I would like to ask you to consider making a year-end giving donation so that the work of Heart for Africa can continue in 2016.  Thank you for considering my request.

In the US: 

In Canada: 

Live from Swaziland … wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our family to yours.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

An open letter to Project Canaan employees - STOP STEALING!

This blog is directed towards our Swazi brothers and sisters and may not be of any interest to my Western friends. I will have it translated in to siSwati and then print it out and posted on all the buildings on Project Canaan.  I don’t know if it will make any difference or have an impact on the unacceptable behavior or not, but we pray that the stealing will stop.

Dear Project Canaan employees,

There is a perception by many people in the West that sending funds to help in Africa is a waste of money.  There is a perception that everyone is corrupt and that everyone steals, so why should the rest of the world reach out and help?  We spend a lot of time and effort telling people that not everyone is corrupt and not everyone steals, and we put our own reputations on the line to commit to spending every dollar that is donated with integrity and truth.  And then someone steals, again.

Many weeks ago we met with each and every one of you and explained why we are here. We told you that we were called by God to quit our successful jobs, sell our house and leave our families in Canada so that could come and serve the Lord through the people of Swaziland.

We have worked night and day to build Project Canaan as the Lord has directed us.  We currently employ 280+ people so that each of you can buy food and clothing for your family as well pay school fees for your children. In fact, almost everyone in Gebeni and Sigceneni who is able or willing to work is employed here.  Some of you have even been able to get electricity installed in your house and some have even bought a car.

Can you imagine how discouraging it is for us to know that MANY of you are stealing from us?  Can you imagine what it means to know that some of our highest paid and highest trusted people have been stealing?  Yes, those very people who are responsible for managing the construction department and are entrusted with either ordering supplies or signing off on supplies when they arrive on Project Canaan?  We have put so many procedures in place over the past few years, and you work diligently to get around them, but this week they were caught and put in jail.

Police station
3 guys in handcuffs heading off to jail.  We are not fooling around here.

It’s hard for us to catch every one who is stealing, but please know that God sees you when you steal. I hate that we have to check every bag of every person that leaves the property, only then to find out that whole truckloads of cement have been stolen and re-sold for personal gain.  Shame on you.

And here’s the real issue – you aren’t stealing from a couple of white people from Canada.  You are stealing directly from the mouths of the orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland and you are stealing from God. Do you think he doesn’t see what you take?  Do you think he doesn’t know when you steal diesel fuel, or fertilizer, or seed, or jewelry, or beads or wire or milk or children’s clothing?  He sees it all because he is El Roi – the God who sees! 

We may not be able to catch you all, but we have our eyes on you, and you will stand before the throne of God one day and HE will ask you why you stole from Him.

I pray that as you take time with your families this Christmas that you take time to re-think your positions here at Project Canaan.  We are here to serve the Lord, and we pray that HE will remove anyone who is not here to do the same thing.  In a country with a 70% unemployment rate, there are MANY people who would happily take your job.

Most sincerely written,

Ian and Janine Maxwell

Live from Swaziland … just keepin’ it real.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

“Baby dumping has become a bad habit”, says the Swazi police.

I know you have a lot to do to prepare for Christmas; shopping, baking, caroling, decorating and visiting with friends and family, so I will make this short (but maybe not sweet).

On Tuesday of this week a 5-month-old baby boy was left in a ditch near flowing water, allegedly by a man and a woman who suspiciously went in to the bush, and then disappeared.  Four hours later a baby was heard crying and the child was found by a man passing by.  The baby was covered with bug bites, but otherwise a perfectly healthy child.  The boy was taken to the hospital for immediate care while police and Social Welfare investigate the case and look diligently for the parents who would do this to their child.

Two days later the same newspaper reported that a 9-month-old baby boy was found on the side of the road by some kombi (taxi) drivers, covered in newspapers, and he too was taken to the hospital for care while investigations take place.

In the Times of Swaziland article Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba said, “Such incidents have increased and it is shocking and a bad habit.  The police will leave no stone unturned on the issue of baby dumping.  Perpetrators, when found will be dealt with accordingly. We would also like to request members of the public to work hand in hand with the police in finding such culprits.  Such incidents are clear indication that domestic problems are involved and such problems end up affecting these innocent children.”

What else could a newspaper say?  It seems that baby dumping happens with such regularity that maybe there should be a column in the paper for it, like the wedding section or obituaries. That way we could all check it regularly and see if we recognize the face of the abandoned child?  SOMEONE KNOWS those two babies and would recognize their faces.  But then posting that photo might go against the Child Protection Act that is specifically designed to protect the children against harm and perpetrators.  A rock, and a hard place.

Please pray for these two children and so many others that are not found in time. Please pray for the 106 children who have been placed with us at the El Roi baby home through the Social Welfare department of Swaziland.

As I prepare to welcome Spencer home in 7 days and Chloe home in 12 days, I will continue to pray for the mothers of Swaziland. I pray that one day their joy will be restored and that they will find their hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I pray that they will be able to keep and raise their children so that they will cherish and look forward to Christmas and visits from them, just as I do now with mine.

Live from Swaziland … it is 100F + with no sign of rain. 


Please consider helping provide for these 106 babies by making a year end giving donation that will be matched up to $100,000 before December 31, 2015.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Drought + storm + power-outages + 105 babies =

Over the past two weeks I have been praying and asked the Lord to turn down the heat a bit on our lives. I wasn’t speaking about temperature, but rather I was asking Him to turn down the crises, tragedies and human suffering that we have been dealing with so much.   I believe He answered my prayers and I have had some quieter days and even got a beautiful newborn baby boy on Friday, which brought me great joy. His name is Barak, which means "lightening". We thought that was appropriate based on the rest of the week... keep reading.

While turning down the “injustice” temperature a bit, He turned up the environmental heat to 100F+ for many days with intense humidity.  We don’t have air conditioning here on Project Canaan, and we all depend on ceiling fans and ice in our water to cool down.  We use sprinklers and small kiddie pools to cool down our children and leave the ceiling fans on high at night when they/we sleep.

This week the temperatures hit 105F+ (Swaziland was the second hottest place on earth on Thursday according to the newspaper), the rain started to fall and the power went off.  There are a few reasons why our power goes off 3-4 times a week.  Sometimes it’s South Africa (where our power comes from) who turns it off to help “load share” for their own power-shortage issues.  Sometimes it's a line that breaks due to a storm, and sometime it just goes off, seemingly for no reason.

This week the rains we have be praying for came, which was awesome.  The rains came and the electricity left.  First it was off then on, then off then on and then off. And it stayed off for almost 30 hours.  But the beautiful rain kept falling.

Imagine having 104 babies to care for when the power goes out.   It’s pitch black so you are working with portable flashlight type things and worse, the fans would not spin and the children were crying from the dark and the extreme heat (and I wanted to, but tried to refrain).  When the power goes out, so does our water purification system so all the water then needs to be boiled in order to drink it.  I want to stop and give thanks for ALL of our Caregivers who handle these situations with such grace and love.  They are truly amazing women and men.

It was the hottest night of my whole life and we didn’t sleep a wink.  The next day everything in everyone’s refrigerators and freezers started to melt and by sundown the next day the walk in freezer (full with a new order of chicken) was melting. Then I got a call from a neighbor at the nearby golf club who saw my whining on Facebook and offered her bunker freezer to help us out. What a gift that was at the right time.  Anthony and Denis loaded up the chicken and rushed it over.

Later that night the power did come back on (and off and on and off) and then stayed on. This small town girl from Northern Ontario, where it’s minus 40 degrees for weeks on end in the winter, was NEVER so thankful for a simple ceiling fan to come back on. 

We have looked at alternative energy sources and are working on a plan to get a large generator that will cover the Children’s Campus when the power goes out, but for now, we pray, and we give thanks for the rain, and the roof over our heads that doesn’t leak and that we are not living on mud floors that turn to muck when the rains come.

To answer many of you who are asking if the dams are filling. The answer is, not yet.  Our experience is that we need about 30 days of this kind of rain for the dams to start filling. The dams aren’t directly filled by rain, but rather it’s the rainwater that flows down from the mountains that fills them.  There has to be enough rain to saturate the ground up the mountain and only then does it start flowing down the mountain in to our dams.  So, we continue to pray for lots of rain.  The good news is that we do believe the ground is wet enough in the maize fields that we can go ahead and plant our maize crop next week.  

In other news, Friday was our first Kindergarten graduation at the Project Canaan Academy! Teacher Amber did a wonderful job (as always) and 4 Kindergarten students will go to Grade One next year and six Preschoolers will move up to Pre-Kindergarten.  We are so proud of them all.

We will miss Isaac Flentge next year as he moves back to the US tomorrow.
Preschool moving up to Pre-Kindergarten in February.
Giving thanks for rain, and electricity, and ice for my water to cool me down.

Live from Swaziland... Jesus bring the rain (and keep the electricity on please!).


PS – please consider giving a year-end giving gift to Heart for Africa to help us help the people of Swaziland and 105 children. Thank you.