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Saturday, October 28, 2017

A former assassin, a suicide bomber and a few Christians

What a wonderful welcome home!!
Today we arrived home to Swaziland after 25 days away.  In the past month we have seen the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.  We were on 14 flights landing in 8 countries on 3 continents.  We have been blessed beyond our wildest imaginations in seeing friends, family and the wonders of God’s creation.

Just sitting on the Mediterranean coast.
This past week we attended a conference in North Africa.  Due to the nature and location of the conference I will leave most of the details out, but I do want to share a bit about it because we were in a Muslim country where early Christians were imprisoned and then fed to the lions as entertainment for the locals, and Christians who have converted from Islam today are ostracized by their friends and family because they have become infidels.

In the midst of this eye-opening and informative week we met two incredible men of God.  One is a former assassin for the late PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, his name is Tass Saada, and his books are a “must read”.  The other is a man who was raised in an extremist Islam school and as a teenager was training/preparing to be a suicide bomber.  I won’t share his name or photo publicly. Both of them had personal encounters with Jesus, which lead to their conversion, at great personal risk.  Both of them had a profound impact on my life.

I wept as I stood and heard each of them speak so openly and honestly about the hatred they had in their hearts when they were young, and how it all changed when Jesus was revealed to them.  These are men who had never cried in their lives until they felt the love of their heavenly father, and then “suddenly there was something running down their cheeks from their eyes”.

It was humbling and inspiring to learn about the “Spirit of Martyrdom” in the early church and what an honor it was to be martyred for the sake of Jesus.  All this while we stood in the very location that the bible was Canonized in 397 BC.  It was equally encouraging to hear people serving God all over the world share miraculous stories of healing and transformation in the ministries where they serve.  You would be surprised at what stories a former assassin, a suicide bomber and a few Christians can tell :)

This month has been a month of encouragement for us both. No matter where we were, or who we were with, words of love and encouragement were spoken over us.  What an incredible gift that was to us.

Today’s journey home from North Africa to Swaziland took us a total of 26-hours.  We are tired, but at the same time rested. As the expression goes, “A change is as good as a holiday.”  We are ready for a day of rest tomorrow and then to be back to work on Monday with our Project Canaan family.

Live from Swaziland … 33 of our “big kids” greeted us at the airport!!


Saturday, October 21, 2017


When Ian and I landed in the US a couple of weeks ago we picked up a US “burner” phone - a pay-as-you go phone that allowed our kids and our US office to reach us while on American soil.  Within a few hours of activating the phone we received and “Amber Alert” (  Suddenly our hearts sank and we got that sick feeling in our stomachs.  Who’s child has been gone missing?  Where is the child?  What is happening to that child now?

I remember when Chloe was 3-years-old and we were at Disney World there was a very loooooong five minutes that we couldn’t find her, which seemed like an eternity.  While trying not to panic, the worst fear(s) that I have ever experienced  erupted over my whole body like a volcano.  When we found her (not 15-feet away), I wept with relief and swore to never let her out of my sight again.

The reason I tell you this is that I am struggling with events that happened in Swaziland this past week.  Within three days, we received three baby boys.  One (estimated) 11-month-old was found by police crawling on the side of the road. One (estimated) 3-month-old was left in a “mushroom daycare” (see blog and the third child (15-months-old) was found being cared for by his 5-year-old brother – their mother had been long gone. 

What happened to “Where is my child”???  HELP!  SOMEONE HELP ME FIND MY BABY!?

Child's face is blocked as the mother is still being sought by police. Those chubby cheeks are from malnutrition, not fat.
But no, three babies left alone in three different locations within three days. 

I am not writing in judgment of the mothers who abandoned theses babies, but I just can’t seem to reconcile it in my head and heart knowing the feeling that I felt in Georgia upon receiving the “Amber alert” for a child unknown to me personally.  What has to have happened to a woman to lose her motherly instinct to protect her child at all costs? What has to have happened to have a mother think that leaving her 11-month-old on the side of the road is better than keeping him with her?  We often hear it said that the moral fabric of Swazi society has unraveled, but this seems to be at a different level of darkness.

Thankfully El Roi, the God who sees, saw these three and rescued them from possible human predators, dogs, snakes, exposure, hunger and death.  Each of them has been placed with us through the Social Welfare department and each one has begun their individual journey to health and healing. 

And now, these children are our responsibility,  a total of 170 children, under the age of 7.  How did that happen?   Every now and then I look at Ian and say, “What were we thinking?”  And he reminds me that this was God’s plan, not our plan.  That is an understatement, and the truth.

It costs approximately $225/month for each and every child we care for. That is $2,700/year.  We have 81 full time staff caring for our children including day shift, night shift, cooks, cleaners and Supervisors.  We can’t do this without the support of people like you. Maybe today is the day that you will help support one of these three little boys who have been left by their own mothers.  Will you help us provide them with love, food, clothing and all the care they need?


Live from Morocco … we are having a wonderful holiday, but missing our children today.


PS - we named the little guy in the photo "Zacchaeus". He is the one found on the side of the road. Many of you will know of another Zacchaeus who was found on the side of the road, and saved. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

What did I see in their eyes?

Hand carved Zimbabwean statues for live auction.

I have been told that we make it look easy… this “missionary thing” … afterall, how hard could it be? Moving to Africa, abandoning your family, building a house, buying a car, opening a bank accounts (actually that one still hasn’t been possible), figuring out telecommunications, managing with slow-speed (expensive) internet, and doing it all in a local language that seems almost impossible to learn.  How hard could it be?

It’s hard. Really hard.  Nothing is as it appears to be. The people we trust betray us.  The safety that we feel is false-safety. Spencer and Chloe, and family, are far far away, and a host of people sit on the outside looking in, watching to see if we are doing things right or wrong.  But of course, they are not “judging”.

But nobody REALLY wants to hear about all that, so when asked how we are doing, we stick with “It’s all good”.  And really, it IS all good, except for the bad parts.

On Thursday we had wonderful evening with so many dear friends at a Gala event in Georgia that was designed to raise money for Heart for Africa. By all accounts, the golf tournament, dinner and silent auction were a huge success, raising over $100,000 to help us raise our 167 Swazi children.  As each familiar face arrived at the event I was encouraged by their presence, knowing that we really aren’t alone doing what we do.  Each one made an effort to come and see us, support us financially, and encouraged us to continue doing His work.

BIG thank you to former Board Chairman, Rick Bishop, for hosting the successful golf tournament again this year.

Congratulations to Rod McLure and team for winning the golf tournament.
We are celebrating five years living in Swaziland. FIVE YEARS!  How could it be five years when it feels like we are still finding our way around?  During the event the Chairman of our Board of Directors, Chad Gregory, asked us what the biggest change was in the five years since we moved to Swaziland. I responded with “weight gain”, but alas that was not really the answer he was looking for :). 

I went on to share that the biggest change is trying to get our heads around being the mother and father to a rapidly growing family.  Without even thinking about it I found myself sharing the challenges (and fears) of raising children who have HIV/AIDS (making sure they get their life-saving medication twice a day) and tuberculosis (keeping them in isolation until they are no longer contagious).  Then there are the many children who are on special diets to help them “catch up” on their weight, after suffering from extreme malnutrition and neglect, and then there are the ones who arrive with broken bones who need immediate care, and the ones who were dumped in outdoor toilets (pit latrines) and arrive with head trauma/lung infections and even burns.

I choked up while talking about our little girl named Phephile, who came to us with a broken tibia and fibia along with signs of 6-7 historic breaks in her arm, I looked out across the room and saw many tears in many eyes. What did I see in those eyes? They were the eyes of people who love us, who care about those children, and who are asking themselves how they can do more to help Heart for Africa?
Thank you Jeremy and Raelenna Ferguson for traveling from Missouri to show their love and support.
Those are our friends who “get it” and they were there that night to REMIND me/us that they “get it” and that they want to help.  No sitting on the sidelines.  They were there to encourage us, and hug us, laugh with us, and cry with us and remind us that even on our darkest days when it feels like we are all alone, we are not alone.  They are with us in spirit and in prayer.  I got a huge boost of energy from their smiles (and tears), which rejuvenated me and encouraged me to take on another day.

Taylor and Sandra Green always volunteer and attend our fundraising events. Thank you Green family for your love and support
Yesterday we flew to the west coast of Canada and will attend the “Celebrate HOPE” in British Columbia tonight with more friends and family who are truly committed to supporting us.

I have no doubt that today’s blog will be my least read and least shared because there is no drama or craziness in it, but that's okay. I wanted to make sure that I took the time to let you know that I am thankful for each and every one of you and I pray for you and give thanks to the Lord for your lives.

Live from Vancouver … today is going to be a very busy day of meeting, but it will also be fun.

Special thank you to Chris Cheek for all her work making this event a huge success and for her son Joey to be serving by her side.  We are thankful for this special family.

PS – we have THE MOST AMAZING US staff/Board and volunteer team at Heart for Africa. Thank you all for making Thursday night magical for us all.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The only thing you can spend money on that will make you richer.

When I was a child I had the privilege of traveling with my parents.  I’ll never forget our first big trip to Asia when I was in 7th Grade. My mom’s sister was a missionary teacher in Japan in the late 1950’s after the war, and died unexpectantly from a malignant mole the same year I was born.  My mom wanted to go and see where her sister has served, plus my cousin Dawn was living/serving  in Japan at the time, so off we went. This blue-eyed, blond-haired, 12-year-old was quite a novel sight in 1976 traveling from Asian country to Asian country.

It was on that trip that I caught a bug.  The travel bug.

My parents had no idea the size of the gift they gave me on that trip – it was the gift of seeing the world, learning about new religions, new cultures, new sights, new sounds and they introduced me to the flavors of the world. 

On the wall of the Project Canaan Academy preschool there is a Dr. Seuss quote that says, “OH the places you will go”.  I can’t even begin to imagine the places that our 167 children will go as they learn and see new things, hear new sounds, taste new flavors through their home, education and life on Project Canaan.

Ian and I are on a whirlwind trip that had us land in the US on our 26th wedding anniversary (October 5th).  Just after we landed I received a message that a beautiful 5-week-old baby girl had safely arrived home to Project Canaan. Her mother is 20-years-old, already has two children and one was born paralyzed.  She had no money for food, medical care or clothing and begged Social Welfare for help.   The baby, whom we call “Happiness” is home.  Oh the places she will go.

The hotel room that we slept in last night had an interesting pillow on a chair in the room. It read, “Travel is the only thing you can spend money on that will make you richer.”  I completely agree.

As I sit on an airplane flying to Toronto and on to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with Spencer, Chloe and Ian’s family, my mind wanders back to the day that my Aunt Margie heard the call to move to Japan.  It was her obedience (and death) that prompted my mom to want to go to Japan.  That introduced me to a world I would never have otherwise known about and a love for people, diversity and desire for understanding.

If you have been hearing a still small voice telling you to “go”, just do it.  Your life will change and you just might change generations to come.

Live from Atlanta … enjoying happiness from travel and celebrating baby Happiness.

PS - Travel does not come without many frustrations. This morning we stood for 30 minutes while a TSA agent very slowly and methodically pulled out each and everyone one of 50+ rolls of camera film from a travelers zip lock bags and SLOWLY wiped each one completely and then checked the swab for residue.  The line backed up, people were baffled, but there he was just "doin' his job". With the last one he took off his gloves and walked out of the security area and went on his break (I guess). Another agent resumed with the next traveler.