Sign up to receive this blog by email

Saturday, December 30, 2017

If I knew then, what I know now …

If I knew in 2005, when we were first called to volunteer in Africa, that I would be mother to 179 Swazi children, I would have said, “No!”  I would have said it was impossible.

If Ian and I had a crystal ball back in 2005 and saw that we would be living on a 2,500 acre farm in Swaziland, would be legal guardians to 179 Swazi babies, be responsible for 280+ employees and managing a feeding program for 3,200 children each month, I would have run to the closet and completely shut down.  I truly believe that neither of us would have said YES to the calling.  

We are not super heroes, we are not super Christians, some days I don’t even think I am a very good person.  I get frustrated, angry and don’t always respond the way I should.

But God knows us and He calls us in a way that we will hear and know His voice.  For us, He made Africa an adventure.  It was a fun, frustrating, invigorating, intriguing, challenging and addictive adventure. And we love adventures. 

I have told you this before, but so many people think we are saints, and have sacrificed so much.  Our long-time friends and our children can assure you we are not. But people also think that if Ian and Janine had not moved to Swaziland, then the 179 children who live here might be dead.  I respectfully disagree.
I truly believe that if we had chosen to stay in our comfy life in Toronto with a big house, nice cars, great income, private schools etc that it is us who would have missed out.  I truly believe that the 179 children who are alive and well at Project Canaan today would still have been rescued, because God would have chosen someone else who said, “yes”.  And we would be stuck in a world that no longer gave us joy or hope.

My head spins at that thought.

I think Chloe has claimed Holly as her own (and River has claimed Chloe :)
I love watching Spencer with little Christina and baby Ivy.
My message to you today is this – what are you missing out on because you are focused on you or your family, and not on the one who has an amazing adventure for your life serving Him?  What are you missing out on because you are afraid to say “yes” to a nudging that you are feeling?   Following Jesus is not easy and who knows, maybe He will even ask you to move to Africa (hahah).

Joshua 1:9 says, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Is 2018 your year to be strong and courageous?  I hope so.  You will never regret it.

Live from Swaziland … living in His strength and courage.


Please consider making a year-end gift to support our continued work in 2018. 

To give in the US please click here.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Newborn twin girls arrived today

What do you do on your Christmas family holiday?

 This week has been a busy one, but with the perfect rhythm of winding down for Christmas. We picked up Spencer and Chloe at the airport in Johannesburg, did our last minute Christmas shopping in South Africa, hosted a Christmas party with the Project Canaan staff and had our celebration dinner for our Kindergarten and Primary school students who excelled in school last semester (complete with KFC,  Root Beer floats and the Grinch).

Today I planned to do welcome some special visitors, go to Kids Club, do some last minute wrapping and food prep for some family favorites. Mid day I got a call that stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of why we are here.

The caller shared the sad news that there was a set of newborn twin girls who were born on Tuesday at home and whose mother died suddenly last night. The police and social welfare were involved with the case and were dealing with a hysterical old Grandmother who was left mourning the death of her daughter and knowing that she could not possibly care for the newborn twins. She was extremely poor, living in squalid conditions. I was asked if we could take the babies? I said “yes”, and hopped in the car with Spencer and Chloe to go pick them up.

These little ones will be our 9th set of twins (!).  As they are “Christmas babies” we have named them Holly and Ivy. They will also carry Swazi names, naming them after their mother and Grandmother.  They bring our baby total up to 178 (receiving 32 in 2017).  These two little girls are the sweetest little babies, weighing 2.4KG (5.2 lbs) and 2.2 KG (4.8 lbs). 

Thank you for coming along in this adventure with me each week. I love that together we can celebrate birthdays, new babies, and miracles.  Equally I appreciate that together we can mourn the loss of children, pray for very sick children and share the frustrations of security issues and crime.  In all of these things, we give thanks to the Lord for His provision and steadfast love.

As I often say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful that you are a part of our village.

PS Please consider making a year end financial gift to help Holly and Ivy and their 176 brothers and sisters.

In the US click here.

In Canada click here.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Live from Swaziland … I am at peace.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Naughty or nice?

Leah and Rachel
For those of you who follow me or Heart for Africa on social media you will know that I have been posting Christmas photos of all of our children this week as we all count down the 12 Days of Christmas.  Day one was our eight sets of twins, day two our siblings, day three our tiny babies and our “cry babies” (the ones who didn’t enjoy the photo shoot) and day four was our biggest miracle children.

Today I am posting our “naughty and nice” list, but I will leave it to the viewer to identify who is who.  Anyone who has met any of those children will automatically know which one is which.  I’ll give you two in this blog as a teaser.  



It is so fun to watch the personalities of our bigger kids evolve as their language evolves.  From Titus coming up and whispering, “I like your hair”, to Emmanuel asking if Ian is going to bring his airplane (drone) today.  My favorite of last week was Moses at the End of Year Awards when he leaned over to me and quietly said, “Teacher Amber is going to say ‘Moses’”.  He was SO EXCITED that Amber was going to say his name out loud for all to hear.  


We definitely have some naughty children (some of our twins are the worst), but what we do see is that they are also VERY smart, potentially bored, and definitely strong willed.  I love that our leadership team can also see that, and we work together to help each child develop to their potential, create their own identity, while disciplining with love.  That wasn’t an easy job with only two children, and it’s exponentially hard with 175, but I can honestly say that the Lord is our strength and He is guiding and directing us all.  Without Him we can do nothing.

It is year-end giving time friends, and I ask that you consider making a year-end gift so that we can continue to give the individual attention that is almost impossible in an environment like this.  Please join our village and help us raise these children to be all that God is calling them to be.

To give a gift in the US please click here.

To give a gift in Canada please click here.

Spencer and Chloe will be home in five more sleeps.  I love seeing the young adults that they have become and can’t wait to hear of their adventures since we were together last.  Serving the Lord ain’t for sissies and I am eternally thankful for the support that both of our children give us each and every day.

Live from Swaziland … time to fill the fridge!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Good - a giant sandbox for dozens of children to play in.
I almost titled this blog “A day in the life of the Maxwell’s in Swaziland”, but it was a bit too long.  I wanted to share a quick peak in to the good, the bad and the ugly of our week.

What was good this week?  We built two large sandboxes for our Emseni children to play in.  This will provide hours of fun while we are working on building swings and a giant playground.

A second sandbox in the Oasis playground.
What was bad this week?  Our little 3-year-old Enoch fell and broke his leg.  Even with wonderful caregivers and lots of attention, boys will be boys. We are thankful to have access to a great orthopedic doctor, and that Enoch didn't need surgery.

Bad - a 3-year-old with a broken leg.
What was ugly this week?  It started with some beautiful rain for many, many hours, and ended with a significant chunk of the retaining wall at our Primary school collapsing.  We see the error in our design and will terrace the wall as we rebuild.

Ugly - retaining wall collapses from heavy rain run off.
There is never a dull moment, nor is there a boring day when living on a farm with 175 and 270 employees.   Today I am asking for you to consider making a year-end gift to help us continue this important work in 2018. 

To give in the US please click here.

Thank you for your love and support.  I am thankful for our global village that is helping us do this work.

Live from South Africa … we are on a mission with a shopping list of needs for our children. 


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cue the calf

Cue the calf.
 When I was in the marketing business, we had an in-house photo studio and we did a lot of food and product photography. That was the “easy” part, but photographing children was always the hardest photography to do.

A few weeks ago we had the idea of setting up a manger scene (down at our dairy of course) and get a nice photo of an angel looking over baby Jesus in the manager.  We could have one of our cows in the background and it would be perfect.

We chose Rose for the angel role as she is beautiful and always does what she is asked to do.  Then I went to get our smallest baby boy to play the role of Jesus. I was quickly told by the Supervisor that I had to take baby Mercy because “she is really pretty, always smiles” (and is a favorite in a place where we are not to have favorites!). I didn’t really have a choice, so took the baby I was handed.  It was not lost on me that our baby girl called “Mercy” was taking the place of baby Jesus.

Down to the dairy we went and our young volunteer Jacob came to help put the calf in the shot.  The 3-day-old calf wasn’t interested in participating, and 6-year-old Rose didn’t think that our request to allow the calf to suck her whole hand to keep him there was reasonable.  Thus, we had Jacob put the calf beside a reluctant Rose, and then jump out of the photo (with the calf running after him).  Then “perfect” baby Mercy started to cry because she didn’t like the prickly straw poking her and the calf was not happy about the crying baby. 

All in all, we did this quickly and efficiently so that we have some really cute photos for our year end giving campaign.  Here are a few cute photos for my wonderful blog readers.

"You want me to put my hand in her mouth?  Nope."  Rose

Speaking of cute … have you see the really cute key chains that we make here in Swaziland and sell at  This weekend we are offering 25% off all stocking stuffers (including our beautiful jewelry made with our own handmade SwaziMud ceramic beads).  Just use the promo code STOCKINGSTUFFERS and shop away!   If you want to see some of our 100+ artisans making the beadcraft check out this awesome video

Every dollar you spend helps us support the 175 children living at Project Canaan.  Yesterday we received 18-hour-old baby “Helen” to the family.  She might be the cutest part of this whole blog.

Thank you for thinking of us as you prepare Christmas for your family and friends. 

Live from Swaziland … 19 more days until Spencer and Chloe come home!!