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Saturday, December 22, 2018

Update on the burned girl

On September 8th I wrote about a baby who was horrifically burned when she was only 5-days-old and had not received treatment in the following EIGHT YEARS. You can read about her story here:

I also later reported that our friends at GMRF have agreed to take on her case and assist with reconstructive surgeries to rebuild her face, nose, ear and also the chunk of skull that is missing (you can see her heart beat through the skin on her head).

After much prayer and hours of discussion, our team decided that we should bring the girl to Project Canaan to acclimate her to “western living” before she goes to Boston to live with the Habelow family for 3-months during the first rounds of surgery.  She would need to learn to use a toilet that flushes (not an outhouse or toileting in the forest), to sleep in a bed (rather than a mat on the mud floor with her Grandmother and Great Grandmother, brother and sister), turn lights on and off (their home has no electricity) and live with other people who are not her own family.  We also wanted to get some weight on her so that she is prepared for extensive surgeries in the months ahead.  Her Grandmother told us that she is always complaining that she is hungry, but there was very little food at the homestead. She also doesn’t speak any English so we wanted to work on that as well.

But how do we do bring this disfigured child to our home when we have so many young children. 

So we made a plan.  We started telling the children about a girl who was badly burned and we started praying for her every night with the kids.  A week after that, we showed them photos of her disfigured face, put the photo up in the living room of the bigger kids and prayed again.  Several of the children were terrified, but most looked quizzically at what they were told was a child.  I was told during the week that several of the children asked why Nokuphiwa (No-koo-pee-wah) couldn’t come and live with them?

Some of the kids asked if she was in pain, and I explained that she had some pain (in fact she still has an open wound on her face that oozes all the time – EIGHT years of oozing), but mostly she was lonely because she had no friends. She only went to 1st grade and then the children were too mean to her so she didn’t go to school after that.

Last Sunday I told everyone at church that Nokuphiwa would be coming to stay with us for a few weeks. The girls squealed with delight.  The staff looked uncertain.

On Monday, I drove for three hours with a Supervisor and social workers to pick up Nokuphiwa.  The roads were very (VERY) bad and it made the journey slow and treacherous.  She has always lived with her Grandmother. Her father is in prison for murder and her mother works in another part of the country.  There is no way to actually get to the house where Nokuphiwa lives by car during the rainy season, and so she and her Grandmother left the stick and mud house at 5:30AM and walked for two hours to meet us on the side of the road.  We found them in the shade under a tree, trying to stay cool on a day that was 104F/40C. 

The Grandmother shook Nokuphiwa's hand to say goodbye, there were no hugs, no tears, just goodbye and off we went on another three-hour drive home.  When we got to Emseni 3 where the big girls live, we had six girls come in at a time to meet her. We also had chocolate for Nokuphiwa to give each child as a “hello” gift.  The girls were wonderful, all except for a few who completely freaked out and screamed and ran out of the room.  By nightfall, everyone was okay with their new friend.  Interestingly, the older boys did not fare so well, and didn’t want to go anywhere near her. One boy actually threw up when he saw her. When the Supervisor asked Nokuphiwa if that made her sad, she said, "No, it's okay, I have lots of new girl friends now."  She was so happy!

As mentioned, it was a very hot day so we put the sprinklers on and gave her a bathing suit.  Within minutes the girls were all running in and out of the sprinkler with Nokuphiwa as the leader of the pack. 

This little girl has a long road ahead, and I don’t know where that road will lead, but I do know that God has a very special plan for her life and I am humbled that He has entrusted us to be a small part of her story.  Nokuphiwa will go to the US in early 2019 with a guardian from Project Canaan.  I will keep you updated as the story continues.

Would you consider making a year end gift to help us continue this work in 2019?

Merry Christmas everyone.

Live from eSwatini … praying for our 2-year-old Morris who was admitted in the hospital last night.



  1. Curious, was there any way the grandmother could have come/gone too to stay with the girl? Familial relationships are so important. I know every situation is different and hard decisions have to be made. Yet just extra broken for her as the caregiver she has known is now also no longer there :(

    1. Sadly, there is no funding for another person to travel, but also the Grandmother is not interested in leaving her homestead, let alone country. We have seen a new child living with us! She is a strong leader, everyone here loves her and she has spoken with her Grandmother once, but has no desire to call again or visit. THanks for asking.


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