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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The police brought the baby to our front gate at dusk.

Ian explaining to the Minister of Agriculture how the Sanovo egg boiling machine works with solar power.
Yesterday was a wonderful and long anticipated day at Project Canaan.  It was the official opening of the Egg Barns on Project Canaan. VIP’s flew in from all over the world (Canada, US, Denmark, UK, Holland and Australia) and they were joined by the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, our church Pastors, long-term volunteers and our oldest children.

The night before the event I had a dream that someone brought an abandoned baby to the event!  I couldn’t see who it was, but we were all equally shocked and excited to receive the child. As we awaiting the Ministers to arrive I got a call from a Social Welfare officer saying that he was bringing a 9-month-old abandoned child directly from the police. I had goose bumps all over my body.

As is common, the event started an hour late and lasted two hours longer than expected, but the speeches were excellent, the tour of the egg barn was impressive and our children’s performances of “I know a chicken” and “the chicken dance” were truly the highlights.

The Ministers got up and did the chicken dance with the children.
Below are a few words that Ian spoke as he presented some interesting statistics from our first six months of egg distribution. 

“Welcome Honourable Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane, Honourable Minister of Agriculture Moses Vilikati, Dr. Bitchong and Dr. Pawelos from RFM Hospital, Chiefs from our surrounding communities, Bishop Masilela, President of the Swaziland conference of churches in Swaziland, Pastors from our partners churches, International visitors, all of our guests and of course, our beautiful children. 

This is an exciting day and one that we have been looking forward to for a very long time.  We are thankful that you can all be here to celebrate this day with us.

Project Canaan is a place of hope.  When we first bought this land in 2009 it was Swazi bush.  There were no roads, no buildings, no fields and no electricity.  Only bush!  And now, just look around and see all the God has done in six short years.  It is incredible, impossible and it has been an honor for us to be a small part of a big plan.

Several years ago our friend Chad Gregory introduced us to Tim Lambert and the Egg Farmers of Canada.  Shortly thereafter Tim came to Swaziland to visit with a team of egg farmers and they were moved by the plight of the orphaned and vulnerable children of the country.  These tough businessmen were literally brought to tears when they visited homesteads and churches and met the children who are being fed by the pastors who are sitting here today.  Many people who come to visit us are moved, but unfortunately few are moved enough to go home and take action.

When Tim and his team went back to Canada they started to work on a plan to get a hard boiled egg in to the hand of every child that we feed through our 31 church partners.  They wanted to provide the perfect protein to feed a hungry world … otherwise known as “the humble egg”. 

Today we have 2,500 laying chickens in the barn to your right behind this building and on July 7th we will receive our second flock of 2,500 to go in to the barn to your left.  I want us all to understand that we are producing 2,200 eggs every day and ALL of those eggs are for distribution to orphaned and vulnerable children in the most rural areas of Swaziland. They are also being distributed in partnership with the Social Welfare department and we are excited to announce our partnership with the work that Dr. Pawelos is doing with malnourished children at RFM.  We will be providing an egg a day to each child in the pediatric ward to help ensure that every child gets that perfect protein every day. 

While we wish we could help every child in the country who is in need, that is not possible. But we do what we can with what we have. So let me give you a few statistics of what we have been able to do to feed children just since January of this year.

We currently feed 3,100 children every week. They eat 11,300 meals per week, (78% of our church partners are serving more then one meal a week).  Our delivery truck has drives 38,500 KM (24,000 miles) every ten days to deliver food to our 31 church partners. We have distributed 250,000 or 21,000 dozen hard boiled eggs, 1 ton of sugar beans, provided almost 300,000 hot meals since the beginning of the year and we look forward to increasing our egg distribution next month.

In closing I would like to thank the Lord for His provision. None of this would be possible without His hand and favor.  Thank you to everyone who is here today who has made this dream a reality.  This dream has brought hearts together from around the world and today’s guest list clearly reflects that.  Thank you Tim and Chad for opening your eyes and your hearts to the people of Swaziland and for standing with us in unity as we do our best to help “the least of them.”

Thank you.”

The event was followed by a lovely lunch for 130 people at the Oasis and tours of the property.  As I was preparing to welcome our 29 visitors to our home for a short visit before dinner I got a call from a police officer who had a 3-month-old baby boy who had been dumped with a note from the mother. She wrote, “I hope someone can care for my baby so I don’t have to kill him.” 

The 9-month-old baby that we heard about in the morning hasn’t arrived yet, but the 3-month-old arrived at our front gate at 5PM, complete with court order. Chad and Amy Gregory were with me for pick up and we have named the child “Gregory” in their honor. 

Amy and Chad Gregory with baby Gregory

Live from Swaziland … looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stop having sex!

I have been stewing about how to write this blog today without completely offending my Swazi brothers and sisters, but still speaking the truth in love about “fatherhood” in this beautiful Kingdom, on Father's Day weekend.

When the topics of sex, incest, rape or abuse come up, I seem to snap pretty quickly, and often lash out verbally to anyone in listening distance.  Last week I was told that a young woman whom I care for very much (who has a baby already) was having a sexual relationship with another worker.  I quickly pulled her in to a room and asked her what she was thinking?  I reminded her (not that she needed reminding) that she already is a teenage mother and is living in a country with the highest HIV rate in the world.  I asked if the guy was worth it, then left a long, pregnant (pardon the pun) pause.  She eventually said, “no”.   My final words to her were, “STOP HAVING SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE!" 

But the truth is, these men are telling these young women how much the love them. “Love” here means “sex”.  If someone says, “I love you”, it means “I want to have sex with you.” 

Everyone wants to be loved. This is not a Swazi phenomenon.  God is love.  The bible tells us so and I believe that it is the greatest of all human emotions, so why shouldn’t it be okay?

One of the ways that a Swazi woman shows a man that she loves him is by having children for/with him. They are his property (and so is she if they actually marry), but this “possessive” relationship has provided a sense of security to woman for generations, in a country where women have very few rights of their own.  Sadly, there is no law that prevents a man from forcing his wife to have sex with him, even if she knows he is HIV positive, drunk or covered in STD’s.  But I will say that the domestic violence police are working hard to educate men to not beat or sexually abuse their wives, while lawyers are working to create laws that make beating and marital rape illegal.

When we receive a baby through Social Welfare the child typically comes with a health card.  The health card is their “identity card” until we get a birth certificate made.  MANY (most?) of our babies have no fathers name on the card.  OR, worse than that, the fathers name has been changed several times.  It always hurts my heart when I see the name crossed out and another one, or two, written in. 

But here’s the good news.  These babies (and all of us) have a heavenly father whose name does not get crossed out, ever.  Our earthly fathers may abuse us, abandon us,  be too busy for us, put their jobs before us or whatever their faults as human beings may be. But Jesus is always there.  He will never leave us nor forsake us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us exactly what our heavenly Father has in mind for us. He says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

As we continue to live and serve in Swaziland, my prayer is that we can help disciple, and model what love between a man and a woman looks like. Both Ian and I were blessed to be raised in families with a loving mother and father and we have done the same for Spencer and Chloe. It doesn't mean that our marriage or our parenting has been perfect, but we have learned to "err on the side of grace" as Ian often says, and that has worked well.  We can't "fix" the problem here, nor are we here to judge, but we are here to encourage, educate and love.
Cooking class in Thailand with the family. 
As we all celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, please pray for hope for all who are suffering around the world.  We will be praying for you too.

Live from Swaziland … happy Father’s Day to Ian Maxwell: father to 2 + 123=125 children!


PS – if you want to give your dad a special gift this Fathers Day we are looking for Smoke Detectors for our children’s homes from our Canadian friends and help to buy a Tire Changer from our friends in the US. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

I can’t make this stuff up.

Newest land map for Project Canaan.
Brooke and Ben Sleeper have been volunteering with us since November 2012 and both of their contributions have been invaluable.  Their time with us is coming to an end (and Brooke is expecting their second child on July 8th) and they will be moving back to the US in August.  We are so sad to see them go, but we want them to be exactly where the Lord wants them to be.

Finding a western trained Nurse to replace Brooke has been a challenge.  Western training is important to us, and the training in the US and Canada is different to that in African nursing schools. Not the one is right or wrong, but they are different. Brooke will be the first to tell you that even though she is an experience Nurse Practitioner from the US, her learning curve on pediatric health in Swaziland was steep.  The first 18-months were tough dealing with conditions, diseases and plagues that she had no experience with at all (pediatric AIDS, multiple-drug resistant tuberculosis and severe malnutrition to name a few).  Finding someone with a heart like Brooke’s, her diagnostic ability and someone who could continue the health and wellness program that Brooke has put in place was a huge task to fill. A God-sized task.

Last Monday I was asked, again, who would be taking over from Brooke when her last day arrived on June 24rd   (only 19 work days from her imminent departure!).  I didn’t have an answer, other than, every time I prayed about it I felt the Lord telling me not to worry about it. He’s got it.  While I don’t doubt that “God’s got it”, there are times when I wish He would share it with me.

The very next morning I got a call from our friend Dr. Pawelos who said that he was standing with a young woman who was an RN, trained in the US and was looking for a job as a nurse in a ministry environment.  What??  I immediately called her to find out who she was and what her work/living status was etc.  This is where I say again, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

This young woman was born in the US and her parents were missionaries in Zambia for most of her childhood. She went to school at the Rift Valley Academy in Kenya for grades 7-12. She then went back to the US to complete University and became a Registered Nurse. During that time her parents moved to Swaziland to do pastor training at a local bible college. 

During visits home to her parents she met and fell in love with a young Swazi pastor and they married last year.  She will have her Swazi citizenship next week and her heart is to serve in a ministry, using her education as an RN. 

The very next day after we spoke she came out and spent the day with Brooke to interview, shadow, and see if the fit was right. She loved Project Canaan and we loved her.  By Saturday we met again and presented her with a job offer, she resigned her position at a private clinic in town on Monday and started work on Tuesday of this past week. On Thursday we received a 6-month-old baby girl and on Friday we received a severely malnourished 2-year-old boy and a 3-month-old girl.  I sat for a couple of hours and watched Nurse Brooke train Nurse Hannah in assessing these new children, diagnosing pneumonia in one and creating a nutrition plan for another.  It was a beautiful thing.

A combination of chicken pox scars and skin condition due to poverty and malnutrition.
We now have a full time nurse from Zimbabwe who runs our clinic, handles all our vaccinations, medications and does so much with government relations, AND we have a full time “Swazi-American” nurse who will focus on the health of our 123 children. 

God is good and His plans are perfect.  Let us all be patient, even in times of uncertainty, to listen for His voice and to not get ahead of Him.   We see the hand of God and His provision every single day, and while “patience” is not my greatest attribute, I have learned that He is always faithful and that patience is a good thing.

Live from Swaziland …giving thanks for Ben, Brooke, Koa and baby Sleeper.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Harvesting body parts of an albino child

I am often asked how we handle pain and heartache terrible on a daily basis and my answer is that sometimes we do it better than others.  What I don’t know is how the Social Welfare officers, Child Protection Police and Sex Trafficking Police Officers continue to do their jobs day after day without having complete nervous breakdowns.

At 2:27AM on Thursday morning I received a WhatsApp message (the preferred App for communication here) from a Social Welfare officer asking for help.  A 12-year-old albino boy had been rescued by police and did not have any clothes.  You see, body parts from an albino are considered very powerful for traditional medicine doctors (we would call witch doctors) to make muti (potion).  Sometimes albino babies are sacrificed, but more often hands, feet, limbs or testicles are cut off, and used to make a powerful potion for the “patient” to drink to gain power.  This boy had been captured and was facing sheer terror before he escaped and ran to the police.  

Later that morning I was called again to be told about a 15-year-old girl who had been sex-trafficked from South Africa when she was 14-years-old and she was just rescued by the police, and only had a school uniform as clothing… could we help with some clothes while the police took her to a place of safety?

We have a storage facility where we keep all the clothes that our volunteers so graciously pack in to their second suitcase when they come to see it.  Many people even end up leaving the clothes off their back and shoes off their feet so that we have clothes to help in extreme situations like that.  We have a group of volunteers from Morrison Academy in Taiwan here this week and when I told them about these two children in need, some of the students immediately went in to their own suitcases and gave their own clothes for the two in need. Thank you!!

Morrison Academy, Taichung, Taiwan students and teachers.
These two stories hit me hard, and my only involvement with them was to provide clothing.  I am not the one who needs to face these young people, pray with them, council them, love them and help them in the days/months/years ahead.  I am just handing over emergency clothes to cover their young bodies.  But the Police and Social Welfare officers deal with these things every day. 

Please join me in praying for all of the first responders who carry the burdens of the most vulnerable people of society, often with no way of assisting in any meaningful way.  Please also pray for the albino community and for children who are being trafficked all over the world.  Lastly, please pray for protection for my heart and my mind.  This week the load seems to be too much.

Live from Swaziland … evil is very real in this world.  Come Lord Jesus.


PS.  This blog is NOT a call to send us your used clothing as we really don’t have a way to get them here (the container is basically full).  But if you are coming to Swaziland please feel free to pack your bags full of clothes to leave behind!