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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Are you too busy to attend the King's feast?

Caleb and John, preparing for the banquet
Every Saturday morning we have “Kids Club” with our 63 “big kids” at Emseni AND IT IS AWESOME!!

Let me tell you about it.

One of our goals is to be “intentional” about raising our children (as were with our biological children). Our new Program Director (Bryan Throgmorton – who is also AWESOME!) is helping us with scheduling including the following areas:
·      Spiritual life
·      Homework
·      Reading
·      Arts and crafts
·      Sports/recreational activities
·      Music/drama/dance
·      Age appropriate chores
·      Town outings (KFC, Funky Frogs, grocery shopping)
·      One-on-one time with adults

Our Kids Club is an intentional part of our Spiritual Life program and it is designed to teach our children the “lesson of the week” in preparation for Children’s Church on Sunday.  It is a part of the Waumba Land program that we have been able to use from North Point Community Church.  Our children are divided in to five groups of approximately 12 children and each group circulates through five stations over a period of 75 minutes, which include:

1.     Reading the bible story of the week.

2.     Singing new songs and old favorites as well as dancing and jumping. 

3.     Doing a craft that links to the story of the day.

4.     Learning the bible verse for the week and what it means for their age.

5.     Games that help them learn and remember the story for the week.

Today’s story was that of the “Wedding feast”. The children heard the story of the King who prepared a banquet for his friends, but when the time came for the banquet, everyone was too busy to attend. The King then sent his servants out to the town to invite all of the townspeople to attend because the feast was prepared.  The scripture that they learned was “Those who… belong to him must live as Jesus did”. 1 John 2:6

The craft that they made were crowns so that they would be ready to have the feast with the King.

The games were the best!  They had a relay race where they had to run and take all of the supplies needed for the feast to be ready, including a cup, spoon, table cloth, napkin and of course a plastic chicken drumstick!  Then they had to run around and find the hidden “friends” to invite them to the King’s banquet as the feast was ready to eat!  It was hilarious.

The song and dance is always a favorite and the children sing with their hearts and souls.

I am thankful for so many of you who read this blog every week and who share it with friends and family.  I SO WISH that you could be here to experience the love and joy that engulf our children’s homes.  But for today, you will have to enjoy it through photos and this short video. I pray that you enjoy feasting with the King this week.

Thank you for your love, your support and your prayers. These children ARE the future of this Kingdom.

Live from Swaziland … my heart is happy.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spencer's home!!

Spencer and Chloe at the Toronto airport preparing for their first trip to Swaziland in 2005.

This week our firstborn, Spencer, arrived in Swaziland and will be here volunteering for the next 6 weeks with his girlfriend Jane.  Spencer graduated from Georgia State University in December and was recently accepted in to Graduate School at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.  It’s a double Master Degree program which will give him Master in International Business, and the second year he will live in Barcelona, Spain and attend ESADE Business School (affiliated with Queens) where he will earn his Masters in Marketing Management.  We are so very proud!

Kingston is only a short drive from Ottawa, which is where all of Ian’s family lives,  so he is no doubt looking forward to a few home cooked meals and Grandma’s best cookies with the family.  Jane is busy studying for her MCAT, which she will take in June back in the US, and plans to study medicine. They have a few busy years ahead of them, but are enjoying life together and we are THRILLED to have them with us for a few weeks.

It was June 2005 when we first traveled as a family to Swaziland for 66 days (not that Ian was counting back then).  During the next ten years Spencer and Chloe helped us lead 5,400+ people on 11-day service trips to Swaziland, South Africa, Malawi and Kenya.  That was not an easy assignment for this family, and Chloe was only 8-years-old and Spencer was 10-years-old. Spencer once calculated that he and Chloe have lived at the Lugogo Sun hotel in Swaziland for more than a full year of their lives (yes, more than 365 sleeps!).  When he first told me that I had an epic “mother fail” moment, but I know that God’s hand has been on this whole adventure from the very beginning, and now Spencer is back in Swaziland again … by choice!
Maxwell family in Swaziland, July 2005

Helen Muli joined us in Swaziland in 2005, and now she lives here with us!

Spencer and Jane have only been here for a few days, but it’s just so nice to be able to sit on the patio and chat, or watch an episode (or 3) of  “This is Us” together, or be able to make his favorite cookies (Hello Dollies), just the way a mom should. 

Last night we invited the people who are living up at the Lodge down for dinner, including our long time friends Janice/Roy/Jessica Johnson, Chris Cheek, Kindergarten teacher Leana McKnight and young Egg Farmer from Canada David Newcombe.  And while it was wonderful to cook for them all and sit together by the fire, there was no one who warmed this mama’s heart more than seeing my boy, and his best friend, sitting at the end of the table. 

Chloe … I think you should come home too!  :)

Live from Swaziland … I am a proud and happy mom.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Do children really have human rights?

I love that he got a McDonald's happy meal and became "Batman"  He wore this mask to surgery.
There is a lot of talk about “freedom” this week with a focus on human slavery around the world and especially sex trafficking. We deal with the issue of human rights almost every day here in Swaziland, both for our children and for our staff.

The thing that many people who live in “first-world” nations may not realize is that is there are many places where “basic” human rights are not a “right” at all.  You see, if there is no law within the country where the slavery or trafficking is happening that says it is illegal, then it is not illegal. If there is no law in a country that says it is illegal to have sex with a child, then it is impossible for law enforcement to stop the behaviour, that other parts of the world might see as wrong.  People may agree that it is morally wrong, but many people (the perpetrators) would disagree.  Either way, the children suffer.

On September 8th, 2012 (the year that we moved to Swaziland) the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of Swaziland was enacted by King Mswati III.  It was, and is, a VERY important piece of legislation that provides protection for the children of Swaziland in many areas including: the right to basic food/shelter/clothing/education, the right to have a birth certificate, prevention of child marriage, access to healthcare and HIV testing and it also includes child labor laws and overall child protection laws.  Because we now have LAWS (not guidelines) to protect children, the police can intervene in cases of abuse and hold the abuser legally responsible.  The children of Swaziland DO have human rights and this Act was a life-changer/life-saver. 

I am a firm believer that awareness is the first step to knowledge.  Knowledge is power and power is required to make change around the world.  As people continue to raise the issues of slavery and trafficking, I am thankful for organizations like IJM (International Justice Mission) whose lawyers work diligently to help countries re-write laws that provide protection and real HUMAN rights for those in need. 

One of things that the Children’s Protection Act allowed us to do in the past few months was to get surgery for one of our little boys.  He was born with eight (8) toes on each foot and seven (7) fingers on each hand, for a total of THIRTY (30 digits). His big toes were in the middle of his feet and he did not have thumbs.  Thanks to donors who continually fund our “emergency medical fund”, and with the full support of the Deputy Prime Ministers office, we were able to get reconstructive surgery for this child so that he will have a more normal life.

Last week was the last of four major surgeries that this brave little guy went through. Each of them required crossing the border from Swaziland to South Africa (and back), which is not an easy thing anymore due to anti-trafficking laws, which are also here to protect the children.  We are thankful for our driver (Kenny VanWinkle) and Sr. Supervisor/Auntie Khosie Mamba, who have been with him for every step of this painful process.  Today we welcome them all home and are thrilled to report that all the surgeries where a huge success.

Praising God for 5 fingers on each hand and THUMBS!!
Let us all continue to pray for people all over the world to have access to human rights that would be God honoring and life-giving. 

Live from Swaziland … thankful for all who fight tireless to protect children.


PS - I am told that the same legal minds who worked diligently on the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act continue to work on laws for better protection of the women of Swaziland, including a law that would make domestic violence against women, illegal. We pray that this dream becomes a reality soon so that our Aunties and staff will become more safe.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nothing is wasted; chickens and God

As you may know, we are in partnership with the Egg Farmers of Canada and the International Egg Foundation and Commission.  Through their support we have been able to build two egg barns, each holding 2,500 laying hens. This has allowed us to provide close to 4,500 hardboiled eggs EVERY DAY to the orphans and vulnerable children of Swaziland through our 31 church partners for the past year.

Now that I am married to a farmer 😊 I can tell you that a “laying hen” will produce an egg every 26 hours and will do that until they are approximately 70-weeks-old. After that, their production starts to slow down and so it is time to bring in a new flock, who are young and ready to pump out eggs!

Our next flock arrives on Friday of next week, so we are in preparation mode for that. What does that mean? Well, first, we had to “deal with” the 2,500 chickens that have finished their original purpose … laying eggs. Then we have to clean and disinfect the barns. But unlike many hens in other parts of the world, the breed of chicken that we have still has a lot of meat left on it, and they are very worthy of eating.  So we needed to “harvest” the 2,500 birds.

We had several people offer suggestions on the latest chicken slaughter/plucking machines, but I knew in my heart that we have the very best (and fastest) slaughter/plucking machines already on Project Canaan … our Swazi’s!  I have never seen someone slaughter, pluck, disembowel and chop up a chicken faster than a Swazi woman.  And so the task began early Tuesday morning, and was complete by 9PM Wednesday evening.  It wasn’t pretty, but was it was incredible to watch.

Our children eat 1,200 drumsticks every month, and so the drumsticks were frozen in large bags together.  Our Aunties eat the thighs and wings in stew and so those, along with the breasts were frozen separately.  The livers and hearts are a great source of iron and so they too went in to separate bags and are being added to our children’s menu (we love liver and heart here).  Our freezer is almost full! 

Then there are the intestines, the other organs and the feet.  Those are decidedly the “best parts” according to any self-respecting Swazi, and were cooked up immediately so that everyone could enjoy a “take-out” plate with them when they finished work on Wednesday night. 

I had hoped to get a large stockpot full of bones so that I could make a big pot of chicken broth, but I was reminded that nothing is wasted by our Swazi family, and when it comes to chickens the Aunties and Uncles will even enjoy chewing on the bones when the stew is finished.  No chicken broth for us this time.

Not to link God to chickens, but this week I was reminded over and over again that He also wastes nothing.  This week we also saw lots of hardship, heartbreak and suffering, but through it all we also saw the hand of God in so many ways. We received two babies (a 3-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy) and through their tragic stories we saw salvation, redemption and renewed hope in the eyes of Doctors, Social welfare officers and Great Grandparents.  God wastes nothing.

There may be things in your life that are not pretty, do not smell good, and seem like a total waste, but I promise you, God has a plan, and he uses everything.  James 1:2-4 says, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Let us not rush through the lessons that we are being taught now.  But let us persevere SO THAT we can be mature and complete, and lack nothing.

Live from Swaziland … I think we will have chicken for dinner.