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Saturday, April 22, 2017


The past few weeks Ian and I have noticed that we have been able to breathe much better. It’s not the air quality, it’s not the humidity levels, it’s called “margin”. 

We have been living in Swaziland for almost five years and for most of those five years we have been in full on building mode.  We started with farming and worked tirelessly to install drip irrigation, build dams, clear farmland, train workers and find channels of distribution.

Then the first baby, Joshua, arrived.  And babies started arriving more and more frequently, with a current five-year average of a child arriving every 12 days.  This not only required us to continue building homes for the children and staff housing, but also schools, a medical clinic and focus on training in the areas of health (among the many things HIV/TB and severe malnutrition), nutrition, childcare and child development.

For many who have been here they will agree that we are building a “city on a hill”.  For those of you who may remember the game “Sim City”, it’s kind of like a real life version of that.  It’s not just putting up a building or two (on a mountain side in Africa), but it’s planning for roads, electricity, water access, septic tanks, transporting people, sourcing and storage of materials (building, food, diesel, supplies etc).

Building a city on a hill (technically a mountain).
This is ALL new to Ian and me. We are not land developers, we have no experience in city planning and we did not grow up in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland and therefore know all the ins and outs of working here.  Did I mention that this is ALL new to us.  But we have the Master builder, the Master planner who is directing our path.

Last year was a very hard year for us personally, with people working tirelessly to tear us down. It was fraught with a lot of criticism, judgement, discouraging words and downright evil intentions.  There were days that I felt like giving up, but we had a couple of key people (you know who you are) who stood with us and carried us when needed, to get us through. Satan is alive and well and he is here to kill and destroy.  THAT I know for sure.

This year, I feel that we are now breathing fresh air AND we both have margin in our days.  We are not running frantically anymore because the “building” phase of Project Canaan is complete, and now we are in the “development” phase.   Yes, we still have buildings to build (ie the 2nd grade classroom is being built this month), but we now have more time to think, plan, train and develop our people.

I’ll give you three quick examples of what I am talking about:

1.     Our Lusito Mechanics shop was always in “quick fix” mode with many vehicles needing things fixed due to the bad roads or conditions here.  This week is our third year having Rick Cogbill and our friends from Mercy Tech in Canada doing intense training for TWO MONTHS to teach our guys preventive care, proper repair as well as organization, planning and controls.  The students were ready and the teacher appeared. 

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill
2.     The Emseni Campus is where our big kids live. Our Aunties and Uncles have done an amazing job in caring for, disciplining and loving our children. But we now have 74 children between the ages of 3-6 living at Emseni and it is a monster job.  Today starts a one month school break, which now requires significant planning to keep those 74 (who would have been in school each day) active, engaged and loved.  Then comes Bryan Throgmorton, who has taken on the position of Program Director.  He works intentionally to create a plan with our senior staff to engage our children in all areas of spirituality, physical fitness, arts, music, drama, chores, reading and more so that their time is well spent and the children continue to thrive.  In addition to Bryan, the Lord sent Margie Brewer to us from the US. She is not only an experienced Social Worker with her Masters degree, but she has lived in Swaziland for ten years and is helping us bridge the divide in child rearing between the western way and the Swazi way.  Truly gifts from heaven.

3.     Our Khutsala Artisans shop has expanded and the building has doubled.  This has allowed us to not only hire more local people, but also has given us room to properly run a business of it’s size.  We now have a room to store all of our beads and wire in an orderly fashion, allowing us to manage supply chain better.  We have a meeting room that allows Supervisor meetings, private conversations for HR, people who need counseling, discipline, discipleship or a word of encouragement.  Another room provides the right space for daily counts, production tracking, packing, shipping and invoicing.  Spencer has been here working daily on computer training, designing easy-to-use packing slips and invoice systems that support the existing software program.  I cannot explain the joy that I see on the faces of our leadership team with all this happening. 

Why am I telling you all this? It’s to say that Ian and I have room to breathe now. We have many of the right people in the right place and so we don’t have to be directly involved in (or worry about) every single part of this city on the hill.  Frankly, there is no way that we could.

Heart for Africa and Project Canaan are SO MUCH bigger than Ian and Janine Maxwell.  I am just thankful that we have been given the opportunity to play a small role in this big plan and that so many of you have also stepped up to play your part.  The African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I am thankful that you are a part of our village. 

Live from Swaziland … I love margin.


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