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Saturday, September 29, 2018

$850,000 US for water??

Giving thanks for fresh water flowing
This week Project Canaan became “water secure”.  This is a REALLY BIG DEAL and may not make any sense to those of you who have access to water any time you turn on a tap or flush a toilet.  We don’t have that luxury (which you likely take for granted).  Let me explain – I know you will think this is really cool.

We don’t have a river on Project Canaan, so we have built three dams which are only filled by rain fall.  We have drilled down below dam #2 and we pump the water 1.7 KM/ 1 mile up 100 meters/yards to a holding tank. There it is goes through a filtration system and then flows back down the mountain to our homes, schools and to the front office. The tank is filled a couple of times each week.

There is no aquafer (body of water below the surface), and we have had many surveys done to look for water that we could source. We are completely dependent on rain water, and we have been in the worst drought in recorded history for the past few years. 

This is a bone-dry dam #1 where we gathered in August 2016 and prayed for safety as the bulldozer started up the mountain.
That lead us to the top of the mountain where we found seven natural springs.  Even during the drought the water flowed freely from the springs.  Once we knew there was water at the top of the mountain, then we had to find a company who could bring it down to the farm.  This was a MONSTER project at a cost of $850,000 US. 

Natural springs located 900+ meters/yards above the farm
I cannot tell you how much conflict this brought to our lives. There were people who just didn’t think we should be trying to raise that much money for “just” water.  It caused conflict on our Board, and with some donors. Of course, those people don’t have to worry about only showering every few days to save water or bathing 190+ children with no water.  But we were steadfast in our belief that the Lord created those natural springs and put them on this property for a reason – for us to never be without fresh water.  AND, if it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill, and He would provide.

We secured the water rights with the government for two of the springs and started raising funds. First, we had to make SIX MILES (9.5 km) of roads up a mountain with our bulldozer.   Not an easy feat. Then all the materials (steel, concrete, piping) had to be taken up by tractor loads.  

The project was done in four stages:
1.     Build two weirs/dams at the top to redirect the water. You MUST watch the video  below of a guy taking one of hundreds of loads of wet concrete down a steep hill to build the weirs.
2.     Install 1.7 km (1 mile) of steel pipe above ground.
3.     Dig 7.8 km (4.8 miles) of trenching to bury the OPVC piping underground from the steel pipe down to connect to a 500,000L (110,000 gallon) holding tank.
4.     Dig more trenching to connect that tank to another holding tank of the same size behind the egg barns.

As we raised the funds for one phase, we would start that phase. The OPVC piping had to be ordered from Spain, so each order would take 6-8 weeks to receive, and then we could continue.  

Weirs being built

Chloe on weir #2
Each and every person who Ian has taken up the mountain to see the progress has been BLOWN away by the magnitude and scope of this engineering feat. No photo or video can possibly capture the complexity or scale of the project.

Two years later, the pipe was connected to the second holding tank, and on Thursday we became water secure! Once that holding tank fills up (which should take two days), the water will then be channeled down to fill dam #2 (remember, that’s where we get our drinking/bathing/cooking water), and when that is full it will overflow and fill the Living Water Dam (dam #3).  I should also mention that there is a T-junction in the piping so that the community of Gebeni can also tap in to the water once they have their piping secured. 

Easy eh?  Ha!

I cannot tell you how proud I am of my husband, Ian, for his tenacity, perseverance, passion and absolute faith that this project was the Lord’s will.  This project is like a “life’s work” and  generations to come will have water on Project Canaan because of his faith. 

Thank you to David Bryant for working tirelessly to raise the funds for this project and for never giving up.  Thank you to Tim Lambert and Chad Gregory for having our backs through this journey and for your commitment to water security. Thank you to each and every person who gave a large amount or a small amount or even bought a Water bracelet to have a part of this massive undertaking. 

Thank you Jesus for the gift of fresh water, and for being our living water. Because of you we will never thirst again.

Live from eSwatini … I am eternally thankful.


PS I loved this comment that someone wrote on my Facebook wall in response to our water photos: “I am partnering in prayer with you for ALL the ways that water symbolizes and releases life over your community.”  Amen.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

I HATE begging

Photo credit Linda Olsen
It’s a rainy Saturday morning here in the Kingdom of eSwatini, and it’s the morning after the country’s General Elections.  The country awaits the results of the polling stations as well as the His Majesty King Mswati III’s appointments of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet. There are no guarantees of when His Majesty will make his decisions or announcements, but we wait expectantly.  With a new government comes a new day, one that no one can accurately predict.

Also happening in the Kingdom this morning is a newborn baby boy who needs a home. When I finish writing this blog Ian and I will hop in the car and drive for several hours to pick up a newborn baby boy.  Another tragic case of sexual assault of a young woman, by someone in her own family. There is a common expression for that here “ti bit end lu” - simply, it means “a family secret” and specifically relates to incest.  There is not a week that goes by that I don’t use that expression in one conversation or another. My siSwati isn’t good at all, but my staff and colleagues teach me the important ones, and that is one of them because it’s like a code for what is going on behind closed doors.

This 24-hour-old baby boy will be #199 and next week another newborn is expected, taking us to 200 children that we have committed to for life – they are our children, and yes, they will leave us when they finish school and become productive members of society, but they will always be our children.

We are desperately behind in child sponsorships.  We have had more than 100 people visit in the past few months, and I am praying that some or all of them will find it in their hearts to sponsor a child that they fell in love with. Or those of you who like our many photos on social media or read this blog religiously every week – will you help us today.  Any monthly amount will help us provide for the children who live here. They are clean, well fed, well cared for, but that doesn’t happen without funding. 

We are very close to having to say “no” to more children until our current children are fully funded. I BEG YOU to sponsor a child today by clicking on this link for the US or this link for Canada.  PLEASE - I hate begging.

This is baby Boaz who just arrived home.
I have so much to share each week, but have to limit my blog to a reasonable length so that you will continue to read it and share.  But Ian and I will be in the US and Canada for most of the month of October.  Maybe you would like to come and meet us in person and ask questions, hear more details of our lives here, and find out how you can get involved with Heart for Africa and the 200 children who call Project Canaan “home”. Please check out the locations and dates below and be sure to share this blog far and wide so that we can fill these events to the brim. There is much to say – hopefully much can be shared in October.

Please come and help us bring HOPE to a nation.

Celebrate HOPE Dinner – Minooka, Illinois - Friday, October 12th

Celebrate HOPE Dinner – Vancouver, BC – Saturday, October 20th

Heart for Africa Golf Tournament – Atlanta, GA
Celebrate Hope Dinner – Atlanta, GA – Thursday, October 25th

Live from Swaziland … time to go get a baby boy.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

The highs are high and the lows are low

So many crazy things happened this week that I will attempt to share some highs and some lows in bullet form so you don’t have to read all day.

·      Our friends at Global Medical Relief Fund have agreed to help the young burned girl I blogged about last week ( and she will start her journey to healing in January! THANK YOU ELISSA!
·      Our friends Eileen and Joe Habelow (along with the support of Mount Hope Christian Center, Belmont) have agreed to host the young burned girl and her guardian for the next 2-3 years of surgeries and procedures to restore her to body, mind and soul to health!  THANK YOU HABELOW FAMILY!
·      After a 4.5 hour drive yesterday we welcomed home our 198th baby. She was left for weeks at a time with strangers. She is 20-months-old and is the size of a 9-month-old. She has the saddest eyes and doesn’t make a sound, but she will be loved back to life by my amazing team of Aunties.
·      We celebrated EIGHT birthdays this week, including Ian, Robert, Bernice and Moses’ today! It’s a good cake week.

·      During a celebratory lunch with my Khutsala Supervisors I witnessed a man with a rifle shoot a dog a right in front of us. I assume it was a wild dog, and obviously unwelcomed. We heard a shot, then a yelp! yelp! yelp! as the dog ran in circles (I think he was hit in the hip), then another shot and the yelping stopped. The man returned to the lunch table and finished his lunch.  The rest of us lost our appetites.
·      We had another late-night office break-in, this time with weapons involved.  A spray of buckshot scared the robbers from trying to cut their way in to the safe, then Ian and the boys chased the four masked men in to the bush, while Tricia and I guarded the open office. Lots of damage, but nothing stolen.  We will not be afraid, nor deterred from the work the Lord has called us to.
·      We had a big storm that brought water in to our house and blew out two transformers, a DB box at the egg barn and one of the tunnel roofs at the Greenhouse. 
·      I learned that in Swazi culture, if a man pays Lobola (payment of cows for his bride) to her family, then he “owns” her womb, and any child that comes out of.   If the payment is not paid, then her womb is only being “rented”.

This was a discouraging week for me and I appreciate the prayers of friends around the world. Some days/weeks are just harder than others.  But He is my strength and my shield and as our children sing “If God is for us, who can be, who can be against us?”  He restores my soul through their voices.

Live from Swaziland … time to go make French toast for my favorite birthday boy.


If you would like to sponsor this new baby, please click on one of the links below:

In the US:

In Canada: 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

5-day-old baby girl burned in house fire

This is a traditional stick & mud house. The dried grass roof is highly flammable.
Recently I received a call from a social welfare officer who was in tears.  She had just met an 8-year-old girl who was burned in a house fire when she was only 5-days-old, and has not received treatment since then. She called me to warn me that she was sending me some very graphic photos of the young girl. She asked me to look at the photos and then call her back so we could see if there was any way to get the child help.  (I will not post the photos in this blog).

Next, I heard the “bing, bing, bing” of photos coming in to WhatsApp on my phone, and with trepidation, I opened them. I have received MANY horrific photos from police, hospitals, social welfare officers and even our own staff, but nothing prepared me for these photos. 

The girl was allegedly burned in what is commonly known here as “Lubane”.

“According to the Traditional Healers Association in Swaziland, Lubane is when fire erupts out of nowhere and is associated with the use of black magic.  The intention of Lubane is to hurt the person experiencing it and often leading to death if untreated. A person goes and raises a dead person with fire and uses them as an invincible arsonist who, after touching anything, will leave it on fire.” (source: Swazi Observer June 2018).

Those of us who don’t believe in such things might suggest that the grass roof was struck by lightening and spontaneously combusted in to flames, collapsing on the people inside, often leaving no time to get out of the collapsed roof/house.

Photo of a stick and mud house after a fire. Photo credit: Chris Cheek
I opened my WhatsApp and saw something out of a horror film. A girl whose head had been so badly burned that one eye was completely heat-sealed by skin, but I could see the eyeball underneath the skin shielding the eye.  One of her ears had burned off, her nose was gone and her top lip had also burned away, leaving her teeth and mouth exposed and unable to close.  Half of her scalp had also burned, leaving a swath of exposed skin pulled tightly over the top of her skull.

I was sick to my stomach, and called the social worker back to get more details of the story. She told me that the father is in prison (which is where she first heard about the case), the mother works in town and sends food to the homestead when she can.  The young girl stays with a very old Gogo (Grandmother) in a very rural part of the country. She was in 2nd grade in school, but the teasing and taunting of the children became too much and so now she stays at home and sits outside all day.

Ian and I are met with challenges on a daily basis that we just can’t do anything about.  There are so many people in need, so much disease, so many hungry children, so much pain and suffering, and we simply can’t help everyone. But seeing a child in such pain is not something that I can live with, if there is a way to get her help. 

We have friends in the US who have helped us with a burned child in the past, and so I quickly typed and email, said and prayer and hit “send”.  Over the next few days I emailed back and forth with our friends, and true to their nature, they want to help this little girl if they can.

Many details still have to be worked out, but one of the major challenges is finding a home in the Boston or Philadelphia area for the child and a guardian/social worker to live for several months at a time.  Her surgeries will take several years to be complete, and she will come back to a safe place in eSwatini between procedures.

Please pray with us for wisdom, clarity and favor for us as we navigate a path of healing and wholeness for this child of God. 

Thank Jesus for hearing this girl's cries and the prayers of the old Gogo. Thank you for hearing all of our cries and for sending the Comforter in our darkest hours.

Live from Swaziland … Lord hear our prayers.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Why wouldn't you?

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of Project Canaan. It’s hard to believe that we have lived in Swaziland longer than we lived in Georgia, but it’s true.

When we bought the 2,500 acres of land in 2009 there were no roads, no fields, no buildings, no electricity, no dams, in fact, there wasn’t even road access to the property.  Today we have 60+ buildings including homes, schools, barns, vocational training, medical clinic, not to mention 197 (really cute!) children who call Project Canaan home!

Face painting at Camp Canaan 2018
Next July we will be hosting a very special trip to celebrate 10 years of HOPE and registration is open today! The team will depart from the US/Canada on Saturday, July 13th and depart from Swaziland on Monday, July 22nd.   We have limited space available, so it will fill on a first come first serve basis.  The “ground costs” for the trip are $1,800 US (not including flights). You can book your own travel or secure a seat through us.

This trip will be packed full with time spent on Project Canaan (including Camp Canaan with our children), homestead visits, and a time of real celebration on HOPE mountain! We will have a formal celebration of the 10 years on the afternoon of Thursday, July 18th, which will include Swazi dignitaries from government, hospitals, police and local partners.  We will spend two days at some of our partner churches doing "well child check-ups" as well as delivering a wonderful celebratory meal for the children, complete with a 10th anniversary cake.

Sunday will be the highlight of the week featuring "Music on the Mountain!"  We will take our volunteers, Emseni children and staff to the top of HOPE mountain for a music concert complete with some North Point Community Church musicians (Seth Condrey and Chinua Hawk) as well as other worship teams and Swazi musicians.  The communities from all around Project Canaan will be invited to attend and we will provide a hot meal (cooked by our local church partners) to everyone who comes to worship with us.

Have you been thinking of taking a volunteer mission trip to Swaziland, but just never took the step? Have you traveled with us in the past and want to come back and celebrate the progress that has been made?  Then this is definitely the trip for you!

Ian and I live a complicated, yet wonderful life here in Swaziland.  We deal with life and death, friendship and betrayal, violent crime and people being healed, and none of it is easy. But we love watching the hand of God every single day and we stand in awe of His goodness and grace.

Why wouldn’t you want to come and see all that God has done and celebrate His goodness?  This is a long weekend for many people so please take the time to think and pray about this and if you are to come, please register at this link:

Ian and I hope that you will join us in celebrating hope in 2019.

Live from Swaziland … it’s Saturday morning!