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Saturday, January 28, 2017

We don't do this all on our own

Yesterday we were driving from Swaziland to South Africa to hop on a 16-hour flight to Atlanta.  As we crossed the border, I quickly took a photo of a typical sight - a strong, powerful, African woman, carrying her unbelievable load.  I didn’t consider for a minute that I would use it for today’s blog, but alas, it was the perfect image for today’s message.

I am in awe of my African sisters, Aunts, Mothers and Grandmothers.  Their superhuman strength, their unmatchable endurance and their love is never-ending.   And while African culture is one of living in community and sharing each others loads, we see that the AIDS pandemic, coupled with the drought, has left the majority of Swazi women carrying a big, big load on their own. There is no one left to help them.

Ian and I have had many people criticize us for going it “alone” on Project Canaan.  We have also been accused of not being “qualified” to do our jobs.  Those “nay-sayers” are always taken aback when we laugh and completely agree.   If we had applied for these jobs/roles with our marketing/business resumes we would never have been considered.  Instead, it was God who CALLED us to start the organization with the promise that HE would be with us and HE would give us “one page at a time”.  This has not been an easy journey, but He has never failed us.

We cannot do this alone, nor do we want to.

Over the years we have been overwhelmed and astonished at WHO and WHEN the Lord sent experts in their fields to assist us.  The list is so long that I will be forced to leave the lions share out, but a few key people include: Pete Wilkerson (landscape architect), Charles Mully (Kenyan advisor), Matt Marschall (Agri-business appraiser), Tom Daniel (land developer), Jere Scott (renaissance man, who kinda does it all), Annie Duguid (small/sick/abandoned baby expert from Uganda), and the list goes on and on.

Typically these people arrive before we even know that we need them, and then we are in awe again at the Lord’s provision.

This past week we were so blessed to welcome back, Annie Duguid from Uganda.  Annie is an expert in early child developed and has personally rescued 1,080 Ugandan babies who would certainly have died. She volunteered to come from for 5-weeks in January 2012 to help get us set up, trained and prepared for the babies we knew were coming. The day before Annie was to fly home, Joshua arrived, and we all danced for joy. I was in the US when Annie called me and then I called Ian, who was on the top of Project Canaan with Pete Wilkerson, working on more land plans/water flow etc.

A month ago Annie messaged me to say that she had a week where she could come back and see how we were doing, and her timing was perfect.  She was so happy to see that many of the systems that she had implemented (without babies in here) were still in place and effective. She was able to help us make improvements that will help with early childhood development and stimulation, and we were all overwhelmed (in a good way) with the knowledge that she shared with us. God is good, all the time. And His timing is perfect.

This next month we will have many more highly trained and qualified people coming to serve with us in the most extra-ordinary ways.

·      Rick Cogbill and a team from Mercy Tech are coming for two months do vocational training in the areas of mechanics and welding for the third year.
·      The Egg Farmers of Canada have a volunteer coming to help us “harvest” the first flock of 2,500 hens and clean and prepare the barn for the new flock arriving March 10th
·      Northpoint Community church is sending a GlobalX team, lead by Hannah Gaddis, to continue teaching our Children’s Ministry team on how to teach our young children about Jesus. In addition they will educate our 31 church pastors in some children’s ministry techniques, that will be fun for all to see.
·      Andrew Fisk from YWAM/EMERGE in Colorado, is an expert in Aquaponics.  He will be coming for 2-weeks to start up and train us in the growing of fish and plants in a enclosed eco-system.

Last but not least, the Harp family is leaving us on Monday, after volunteering in Swaziland for the past 3-months.  Barry is a CPA, who has been invaluable in creating systems at Khutsala, and Shelly’s heart for woman’s has been a blessing to all whom she has touched.  Their boys loved our children and our children loved them back!

All this so say that it really does take a village to raise a child, and we are thankful for the global community who have come alongside us in the past and will come in the future.  It's a wonderful living example of the body of Christ coming together with its many parts. 

Live from Alpharetta, Georgia … it’s Saturday morning!


Saturday, January 21, 2017

If you call yourself a “Christian”, what are you afraid of?

Welcome to our newest long-term volunteer - Bryan Throgmorton!

This is NOT a politically driven blog.  I promise.  I am a Canadian, living on a mountaintop in a tiny African Kingdom (with the last absolute Monarch in Africa), just thinking about a world filled with fear.

Today I am speaking to people who would call yourself a “Christian” or a “follower of Jesus”.  What are you afraid of today and why are you afraid?

Did you know that there are 365 references in the bible that we are to “fear not” or “not be afraid”?  I find it an interesting ‘coincidence’ that it’s the same number as days in the year.  We are reminded each and every day that we are not to be afraid. Why? Because God has a plan and His plans are better than our plans.  We may not understand His plans, we may not agree with His plans, but He is God, and we are not.

I can’t tell you how many people have confessed to me that their biggest fear when they became a Christian was that God would send them to Africa.  And while many of them were saying it tongue-in-cheek, there was a hint of truth in their confession.

But here I am, writing this blog in Africa.  And I am not afraid.  I do not fear snakes, or spiders, or fundraising (or lack of fundraising), or government official visits, or surprise police visits, or receiving three babies in a day, or HIV/AIDS, or multiple drug-resistant TB.  No, I am not Superwoman, and believe me, I have my own “stuff”, but I don’t struggle with fear, so I find myself talking with others about it frequently. 

On January 11th I read a shocking, yet wonderful devotion by Oswald Chambers. He explains, “If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything— it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people’s plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, “You call this Christianity?” We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.”

I believe that the reason I have no reason to be afraid is because I am being obedient in my actions, and so my obedience is rewarded with delight. I AM FAR FROM PERFECT (ask my husband or children – or don’t!), but I am intentional in my desire to do what HE wants me to do.  If you are being obedient to the Lord in your daily walk with Him, then you should not be afraid of anything.   

This week we welcomed two new long-term volunteers named Leanna McKnight and Bryan Throgmorton.  Leanna is here for a year as our Kindergarten teacher and Bryan has moved in to the Emseni boys dorm as our Program Director.  While they have not shared this with me, I have no doubt that they have family and friends who did not want them to move because they were afraid, for them, and/or for themselves.  But they put their own fears aside (if they even had any) and said YES.

I have no doubt that Leana and Bryan will be filled with delight in the days and months ahead because of their obedience. I know that our children and our staff will benefit in such a mighty way because of their obedience.  Please join us in praying for peace, strength and for His delight (joy) for these volunteers and all of our other long-term volunteers.   

As you deal with your own fears this week and maybe the fear of the unknown (and while you give thanks that you weren’t called to live in Africa!), please rest in the truth of the scripture from Isaiah 41:10 (Amplified) that says,

 Do not fear anything, for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with
my righteous right hand,
a hand of justice,
of power,
of victory,
of salvation.

Live from Swaziland … delighting in rain this week!


For those of you who heard about Deborah's surgery, she is home and doing very well.  Apparently learning how to drive today before her 4th birthday.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Who knew? God knew.


In 2008 we were leading a team of volunteers in Swaziland from the US and welcomed a family from Charlevoix, Michigan.  I remember them will for a variety of reasons. First, the father was a dentist and was going to work with Dr. Mark McGee doing dental work for the whole week. The second reason was that her brother (a strong, fit young man) fainted out in a homestead visit while we all stood and held hands to pray. He was dehydrated and anyone who has traveled with us since then has heard us tell how important it is to drink a lot of water because he this young man could get dehydrated, anyone could.  (As an aside, he chipped his tooth when he fell and his dentist father had to glue the tooth back together back at the hotel. Great to have a dentist as your father).

The third reason that I remembered them was that almost all of their luggage was lost, and the 14-year-old girl (Jane) had none of her own clothes to wear.  Most girls that age would be very upset, but Jane just went with it and even had to borrow clothes from her older brother all week without a single complaint.  Her luggage never did arrive and since that trip the whole family only travels with carry-on luggage!

Today I saw that young girl, Jane, again. She is now 23-years-old.  In fact, Jane has been with us for the past month here in Swaziland.  She and Spencer have been dating for the past few years and have now graduated from University.  Both plan to go on to graduate school and decided to take the next two months to go on a trip of a lifetime (as if Africa wasn’t enough!). 

Today we put them on a shuttle to Johannesburg where they will take an 8-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.  Then they will take another 8-hour flight to Vietnam.  They will backpack through Vietnam for 23 days and the move on to Thailand for 20 days, finishing up their adventure in Indonesia for 17 days. 

We are so incredibly proud of both of them and their desire to stretch themselves, learn about the world, and learn about each other as they look towards and unknown future in a world where nothing is certain. 

What they both do know for sure is that God brought them together when they were 13/14-years old and God has a plan for their lives. As we said goodbye to them, Ian prayed over them for protection, peace and joy.  We look forward to following their adventures over the next months, and there is a part of us that envies the carefree time that they have to explore the world.

So, what is the moral of this story? You just never know who you are going to meet on an 11-day service trip with Heart for Africa!

Live from Swaziland … our nest is empty again (except for the other 148).


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Was your Christmas absolutely perfect?

The "perfect" Christmas brunch. 

This blog is likely a bit more for moms than dads, but I encourage for dads to read it anyway so that you have a glimpse in to what may go through your wife’s mind during the Christmas season.  I am certainly not claiming to be the voice for all women or moms, but I think I might be speaking for a few of you.

We want every day of the holiday season with our family and friends to be perfect. Absolutely perfect.   Every cookie, every wrapped gift, every cup of coffee, every meal, every light on the tree, every piece of music chosen, every interaction between family members and especially every conversation.  We think about what we can do to stretch the hours in the day so no moment is wasted? How early can we get up so that the kitchen smells good and how late can we go to bed so that the house looks perfect? 

Making the "perfect" brunch for 98 children and 60+ staff.
How do we prepare meals in advance so that we maximize our time with our family and not waste it doing things like dishes, laundry, taking out the garbage etc.

It’s exhausting, and that exhaustion, combined with unrealistic expectations, almost always leads to chaos and tears. 

Our family is not immune to the above picture, and mom is at the center of the dilemma (I am referring to me as mom, not my mom). 

Our family is complicated, as is yours.  Our complication is just different than your complication.  We hadn’t been together as a family since last Christmas and I wanted Christmas to be even more perfect than last year. But here’s the rub.  We have ALL changed in a year. We have all grown older, more mature (I hope), have had more hurts during the year, more joys, more experiences and we all arrive at Christmas, changed. 

What I learned this year at Christmas, despite my inability to deliver the perfect Christmas is that grace has to be at the center of our Christmas activities, and my family exhibited that in a wonderful way.  Grace starts with each of us and as the focus of Christmas is Jesus, we are reminded that Jesus was the ultimate grace-giver.

Chloe, Ian and Jane making home made vanilla ice cream (with farm fresh eggs of course).
Despite my own fears and failures, I had the very best Christmas with my amazing family.  I am unspeakably proud of the young man that Spencer has become as he graduated from Georgia State University and as I watched him working on his applications for his Masters in International Business schools.  I am unspeakably proud of Chloe who spent 35 hours traveling to Africa and 35 hours traveling back to Canada while talking through the decision to change her University focus from sociology to business. 

Both of these young people have navigated their University/College years with our 100% support, but it was from 8,600+ miles away.  We haven’t been there in person to help with buying a used car, getting new passports, navigating an apartment lease, dealing with banking, or more importantly, heart break, tears, fears, anger, joy or excitement that they face each and every day.  That has all been done by phone or Skype, which just isn’t the same as a real hug, a real tissue a real shoulder to cry on.  

Enjoying the first smoked pork butt made in Ian's new Green Egg!
All that being said is that I find myself beating myself up (as I know many of you do) and doing the “coulda, woulda, shoulda”, that moms do.  But then I remember what someone told me years ago, that every parent tries to do the best they can with what they have and what they know.  I know that I am doing that, and I am sure that you are too.

I would never have written my parenting life the way it has turned out.  Afterall, who in their right mind would pack up and move to Africa (period), especially when their children are still in school!  It’s crazy. But God’s plans are perfect (and can appear crazy). Now we have 146 children who are brothers and sisters to Spencer and Chloe.  I can’t imagine my life without them all.

The photo that makes it all worth while.
I am thankful for a heavenly Father who extends grace to me each and every day and shows me that He can use me even through my own fears, anger, frustration and doubt.  I pray that as you enter in to 2017, that you will also feel his love and grace in your life and that you will allow Him to use you, even through your fears, your anger, your frustration and your doubt.

Live from Swaziland … here’s to a new year.


We got a few days in Durban with the kids before Chloe flew home. The "perfect" spot for us.