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Saturday, November 9, 2019

What if?


We are in Toronto this weekend … our old “stomping grounds”, and it’s weird.

I remember always wanting to live in Toronto because I thought it was the greatest city in the world. I loved the noise, the high-rise buildings, musical theatre, the speed of life, nice restaurants and skanky bars that we would visit to listen to live music.  I didn’t mind the traffic or the cold weather or the snow, I just loved Toronto.

But it seems I have changed.

I cannot express how happy I am to have our family together. Spencer flew in from Chicago, Chloe drove in from St. Catherine’s and Ian and I drove from Ottawa, after spending a few days visiting the Maxwell family and our friends from the Egg Farmers of Canada.  Nothing makes me happier than having the four of us together, anywhere in the world and for any amount of time.  But I am starting to get homesick.  I miss my little ones. I miss their squeals of joy, their never-ending chatter, their hugs, their innocence and I miss my Swazi friends and family. 

There is a purity of spirit that I feel when I am at Project Canaan, and while most people in the country are living in abject physical poverty, their internal joy overflows from their smiles to their words of encouragement and thanksgiving.  But I don’t see that in North America. 

As we have traveled the past 20 days to eight cities in Canada and the US, I can’t help but notice the poverty all around me. It’s not poverty of income or wealth, it’s a poverty of spirit.  I got in the elevator to get to the AirBnB that we are staying in and I greeted the people and they just looked away as if I was crazy.  Everyone is moving so quickly to get to the next thing on their schedule, but rarely taking the time to be present where they are (I too am guilty of that!). I’m not saying everyone is like that, and I am not doing a good job putting words to my thoughts, but I feel a sadness and emptiness here that I just don’t feel back in Eswatini.   

I often wonder “what if” we had said NO to this calling to serve “the least of these”?  I would never have seen the miracle of Princess walking or Holly and Ivy hearing or Jonathan being raised from the dead.  I would never have understood how “life-giving” fresh water really is or how terrifying fire can be or how often a chicken lays an egg (!).  But most importantly, I may never have learned that God IS our provider, His grace IS sufficient, and His mercy is new every morning.  I have learned that from living in Africa.

 

This weekend we will see friends from high school, our business days and our life in Toronto. There is no way for me to adequately explain the joy (or the sorrow) of living in Eswatini, but hopefully they will see it in our eyes and hearts.

To my Swazi friends and family – you have changed me, and I will be forever grateful for your patience, your kindness, your grace and your love.

Live from Toronto … I don’t miss the cold weather!

Good morning Ottawa.

Janine

 PS - if you want to come visit us tonight or tomorrow please check this link for times and locations. 



Saturday, November 2, 2019

Heading to Toronto with apprehension


Ian and I are on a 30+ whirlwind trip to raise awareness and funds for Heart for Africa and the work we are doing in Eswatini. We are half way through our travels and all has gone well to date.

Next weekend we will be in Toronto, our favo(u)rite city in the world .  We LOVE Toronto and are excited to be there with Spencer and Chloe, but it’s not without apprehension.

Here is why.

We have four different events on November 9th and 10th, and we have NO idea if anyone will attend them.

The first one is a gathering of high school friends from our Grenville Christian College (GCC) days.  While it is the school where Ian and I met, it has been under fire for many years by staff and students who consider it a cult.  The once popular boarding school has been closed for many years and there is a Class Action lawsuit against it by many former students who were really messed up and/or hurt during their time there.  Most high schools have regular alumni reunions, but GCC hasn’t because of the conflict amongst the alumni and, frankly, some of the memories that people may not want to face.  So … we are sticking our necks out by calling a gathering of GCC friends on Saturday, November 9th from 5:00 to 7:00PM at the Amsterdam Barrel house, which may be a total bust with only Ian, Spencer, Chloe and I sitting together (with our friend Sandy Dameron Carrington).   I hope our GCC friends will come and reunite.

After that event we are hoping to see old friends and business associates from our ONYX Marketing days, but again, those days were a long time ago and we kind of made a mess of things when we closed the company without warning. ONYX Marketing was a very successful Marketing Agency from 1988 to 2004. We had a great business model that attracted the best people in the marketing industry to come and work hard, and play hard, and yes we played very hard. And then I went to Africa, my life was changed and the whole thing came to a crashing halt. 

The Good old days
We haven’t had much contact with many people from the “good old days”, but again are sticking our necks out and inviting anyone and everyone who might be interested in seeing us and hearing about why we really did close our company and what we are doing with our lives now. Spencer and Chloe will both be with us for moral support J , but it might just be us with our friend Diane Wilson sitting at the Amsterdam Barrel House from 7PM to 9:30PM on Saturday, November 9th.  And that would be okay too.

The following day we are speaking at the Peoples Gospel Church (Chinese) at 11 AM, thanks to an invitation from our friend Annie Tam and then heading to the Ballantrae Golf & Country Club Recreation Centre in Stouffville from 2 PM – 4 PM with an open invitation to anyone who would like to come and hear about what we are doing in Eswatini and how we can get more Canadians involved.  We are thankful to Ray and Pat Stadnick and Leslie and Fraser Wilkinson, who are co-hosting the event, but it may just be the eight of us.

If you live in Canada and knew us from one of our past lives, and wondered “what ever happened to the Maxwell family”, please do join us at one of the locations we will be at in the GTA.  They will all be very casual and we won’t ask you for money (well, you never know 👀).   You can check out all the location details at this link.

Live from Minneapolis … it’s a cold (and FROSTY!) Saturday morning.

Janine

If you want to see what we are doing without joining us at an event in the GTA please go to www.heartforafrica.ca. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

It’s 3AM, I must be in Vancouver, Canada


We honored Robert Smucker with the Heart for Africa HOPE award at the Gala in Georgia.

Each October Ian and I land in Georgia and then begin a 30+ day, whirlwind fundraising trip around the US and Canada.  This year is no different.  We spent the past week in Georgia and just landed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for a weekend of family, friends and fundraising. 

I sometimes see people looking at me with a bit of pity that we have to fly around the country and ask people for money (aka fundraising) – who wants to do that?

But that’s not the way I see it. 

Our friends the Geiger's whom we haven't seen in 10 years!
Ian and I have the privilege of serving the Lord through the 252 children he has placed with us at Project Canaan and the people whom we serve with.  We also have the privilege of extending the invitation to you to be a part of the great work that HE is doing.  Why wouldn’t we love doing that?

Next week we head to San Antonio, Nashville, Minneapolis and Chicago, then on to Ottawa, Toronto, St. Catherine’s, Kingston, back to Atlanta and finally back to Johannesburg and home to Eswatini by the middle of November.

Serving the Lord isn’t always easy, but it is always an adventure. We are thankful for each and every person whom we will meet on this 30-day journey and for every person who helps us to reach our financial goals to be able to continue accepting children at Project Canaan. 

This past week we received a little baby girl, who we are guessing is around 6-months-old. Her mother left her in a Shebeen and the police were called to rescue the child.  We have given her the name “Kay” in honor (honour) of my Aunt Kay, who passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 100 YEARS!  She was my mom’s oldest sister and she was a kind, loving, happy person who loved the Lord with all her heart and soul.  My prayer for baby Kay is that she will grow in love and faith to be a Godly woman like my Aunt was.

My mom on the left and Aunt Kay on the right (2005).
If you would like to sponsor baby Kay, please do so by clicking on a link below.



Live from Vancouver … I am going to bed.

Janine



Saturday, October 19, 2019

Coming to a location near you?


Ian and I are on a 30-day journey across the US and Canada sharing with anyone who has ears to hear about what is happening in the tiny Kingdom of Eswatini. This is a trip we take each year and while we thoroughly enjoy visiting with old friends and family, eating in favorite and new restaurants and updating all of our devices with high speed internet (!), the gap between our life in Africa and life in America only gets wider.

During a gathering the other night I found myself telling a story about one of our babies that had jaws drop and eyes bug open. I was, perhaps somewhat haphazardly, sharing the history of our little 11-month-old baby girl whose mother recently tried to strangler her to death in during a state of drunkenness.  My point was to tell everyone how absolutely adorable this little girl is and how much she loves, and responds to Ian. But the story of joy got lost along the way when I told them how she had been left on the ground since birth and it was only other children in the homestead who would pick her up when she cried and tie her on to their backs. The baby was absolutely terrified of adults and also had to come down from alcohol addiction when she first came to us.


I realize after being in Georgia for the past few days how “common” these stories are to us and how “normal” it is to tell a story about babies found in outdoor toilets or how flippant I can sound tossing out an update on a child who has been badly burned (intentionally or unintentionally) at a dinner party.  At times, I fear that I sound insensitive or at the very least, casual about it all. But that is not what is in my heart. While I may be telling a horrific story of a child’s past, my heart and head are at the end of the story that is filled with joy and hope.  While I must share the nature of a baby being found on the side of a river with river crabs having eaten his anus (requiring a colostomy), my heart and head think of the big smile that I receive every time I see the boy and the joy in his eyes when he runs up to give me a big hug.
 
As of today, we have 251 children who have been placed with us by the Social Welfare department of Eswatini to love back to life.  Each child has their own unique history and personality, and each one will have their own successes and challenges, and that is why it is so important for us to have people like you helping us.  We can’t do this alone.  It takes a very large village to raise these children and we are so very thankful for each and every person who supports us with words of encouragement, love, prayers and with financial gifts.

If you live in the Atlanta, Vancouver, Nashville, Toronto or Ottawa area and would like to come and hear about our lives in Africa, the children whom we love or the people whom we serve. For dates in the US click here. For dates in Canada click here

I am excited to report that both Chloe and Spencer will be with us at our Toronto events on November 9th and 10th so please be surto come and see them and say hi!

If you would like to sponsor one of our 251 children on a monthly basis, please do so today. We appreciate your love and support.



Live from Alpharetta, Georgia … I am a bit jetlagged.

Janine

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Three babies and three stories you will never forget


Baby Lewis arrived

This week we received our 250th baby. How did that happen? 250 children have been placed with us by the Social Welfare department of the Kingdom of Eswatini and we are here to love them back to life and then raise them to be the future of this nation. 

At times it is overwhelming, but being overwhelmed doesn’t help save lives, so we just have to put our heads down and get to work.

Baby Lewis (#250) arrived on Thursday and I was so busy I didn’t get a chance to post his arrival, and then yesterday we got a call about another child in desperate need, so today I will share their stories with you as we celebrate their lives.  I hope you will never forget these children.

Baby Lewis is 2-months-old and came to us from a very sad situation, with both mother and father being mentally disabled.  My friend Eileen (Lewis) Habelow went with me up the mountain to the homestead with the Social Welfare officer and found the baby (who had been left alone at home for hours) lying in a pool of his own urine and feces, hungry and screaming.  We quickly got him out of his soaked clothing, gave him a nice warm bottle and soon he was cooing in my arms. 


We got home and gave thanks for this little guy and then suddenly realized that he was baby #250!  We needed to celebrate!  I called Lisa in our US office and asked her to pull together a graphic that celebrated our 250th child arriving.  But before I could get the image posted, another child arrived.

Baby Asande arrived yesterday. Burned and hurting.  His mother abandoned him with a woman who is completely blind. She became blind after her husband beat her badly because she couldn’t give him a child, causing a serious injury to her head causing the blindness.  That same man is the father to Asande (from another woman), and he told his wife he would kill her if she didn’t’ care for the baby.  Earlier this week she accidently spilled boiling water on the boy, burning his torso and arm very badly.   Social welfare had been involved with this case for many months, but this time intervened and removed the child to save his life and placed him with us. He will turn 2-years-old this month, and arrived just under our 2-year-old cut off AND gets his very first birthday cake.  Another tragic situation that will turn to triumph. 


On Monday we received a little girl whom we are calling Tilly. She is 11-months-old and is absolutely terrified of adults. For days she has been inconsolable and we assumed it was a combination of coming down from alcohol addiction (her mother is an alcoholic and was nursing her), and severe physical abuse (her mother tried to strangle and kill her last weekend).  But we have since learned that this baby was being raised by children, and adults only hurt her when they were around. We discovered this when one of our Aunties took her out to see the toddlers, trying to get her to stop crying one day.  She immediately calmed down and looked around for a face that she knew. She saw our 2-year-old Mollie and tried to get on Mollie’s back to be carried. What a heartbreaking sight for everyone to see.  Slowly she is starting to trust the “big people” around her, and yesterday Ian was even able to hold her for a moment before she screamed, but it was progress indeed.  We do think that it was women who abused her most.


Some days are harder than others, but when I think I am having a bad day, all I have to do is think about any of these three children and I see how blessed I am and that God has called me to be a part of their lives. 

If you have read this far, I am asking you to consider making a one-time gift in celebration of our 250th (and 251st) child.  Would you give $25?  $250 $2,500 or maybe even $25,000 to help us be able to save the next child who is burned, broken or abandoned?  We are willing to do the heavy lifting here, but can’t do it without an ever-growing family of supporters around the world.  Also, please share this blog with friends and family and on your social media platforms. Help us get the word out that there are children in Eswatini who desperately need help. 

 

Thank you for praying for us and with us.  It takes a village to raise a child, and a really large village to raise 251+. 

Live from Eswatini … I am going to see my three new little ones.

Janine

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Oh, how times have changed … and so have I.

Walking out after our wedding ceremony ... what were those kids thinking!?

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary, and I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on how things have changed over the years.   I’ll try not to bore you!

Last night we went to our new soccer field at sundown, took our fold-out chairs and just sat and looked over the fields.  It’s our new Friday night “fun activity”, and we love it.  The farm workers were leaving for home, scores of birds were dancing and singing in the sky and we could hear the sounds of the children playing outside up at the Emseni Campus.


Oh, how times have changed.

When I was 24-years-old I started ONYX Marketing Group in Toronto, and for 16 years I felt defined by my role as President and Founder of that company.  My identity was completely wrapped up in my company, being one of very few women around the world to own a Marketing Agency in the 1980’s.  And then my life flipped upside down after being in New York City on September 11, 2001.  That day, and the days/weeks/months that followed forced me to examine what I was living for, and what I was doing with my life.  That self-examination lead to a major change in our lives, which eventually led us to living in Africa. And as I sit and write this blog I am overlooking a farm, carved out of African bush, and this is home.

We've got beets!
Last night as we sat listening to the sounds of the farm, thinking back on the last 28 years, we realized that the first 14 years of our married life we both worked at ONYX and the last 14 years has been spent in ministry.  I am no longer defined by my business days, but I can clearly see how our business days worked to prepare us for our calling in Eswatini.

I remember when we were first called to Heart for Africa thinking that I had NO skill sets that would be useful in a poverty and AIDS stricken country in Africa.  The Swazi people didn’t need a marketing person, they needed food, clothing, jobs and hope.  I was certainly not the person for that!  I was a self-centered, capitalist who liked nice hotels, expensive restaurants and room service 😁 . 

But the Lord has changed me. Don’t get me wrong, I still like those things, but I would much rather be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, loving the unloved or helping people earn an income so that they can care for their families.  It’s simply amazing what can happen when we really surrender and stop focusing all of our energy on our needs, our desires, our hopes and our dreams and starting thinking about others.  It’s a paradigm shift, and it is life-changing, life-saving and life-giving.

Today Ian and I are going to spend the day together just “doing life”.  We will make the one-hour drive to town to buy some groceries, go out for lunch, come back and hang out with some toddlers on a scorching hot African day.  Then we will throw some steaks on the grill and watch the sun set, again. 


I am so thankful for the past 28 years with my best friend. We have gone through intense joy and extreme sorrow, seen both hope and hopelessness, planted seeds and fought fires, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  Life is an adventure, and I am so thankful for the most amazing partner that I get to do life with. 


I thought I would leave you with a few life lessons that I have learned in my 28 years of marriage.  Maybe they will be helpful, and maybe not. 

-       Laugh a lot.
-       Apologize a lot.
-       Forgive and ask for forgiveness a lot.
-       It’s okay to go to bed angry, just make sure you deal with it in the morning when you are rested.
-       Don’t ever say, “I don’t think I want to have children because they are too much responsibility” (!)
-       If your husband says, “Hey, I think we should buy 2,500 acres of land in Africa” – just go with it.

Live from Eswatini … loving life with Ian Maxwell.

Janine

Saturday, September 28, 2019

We have figured out how to make snowmen in Africa! ☃️


Khutsala Artisans is an incredibly important part of the Project Canaan Ministry because it employs 100+ people, who in turn are providing for 1,000+ people from their wages.  While we make and sell dozens of different 3D animals, keychains, and lots of SwaziMUD jewelry (handmade ceramic beads), it is our annual Christmas tree ornament that is our biggest seller of the year.

This year our ornament is the CUTEST little snowman, complete with a red scarf made from authentic Swazi fabric.  And of course, we made a larger decoration to sit on your mantle and match the ornament.  

So now we need to sell them all!  I am looking for 20 people TODAY to become Khutsala Brand Ambassadors and commit to selling 50 ornaments each (snowman or an assortment of any of our ornaments).  They are all in our warehouse in Michigan and ready to ship to you next week!  You would be surprised how many people post the ornaments on their social media pages and sell 50 to 100 within hours!

Our ornaments are only $12 each and make a perfect gift for anyone on your list, plus you are helping employ Swazi’s with all the profit going back to help provide for our 248 children. Will you be a Khustala Ambassador this year?  If yes, please email me at janine@heartforafrica.org or mandy@Heartforafrica.org and we will get you set up!  


We also have a really great fundraising program through Khutsala where we can make customized keychains (or ornaments) for your school, club, sports team or even your next missions trip!  The photos below are two examples of custom work that we have done recently.  It’s an easy and fresh way to raise money without selling high calorie snacks!



This past week we also worked on a beautiful beaded poinsettia bowl, and so while we haven’t made any yet I thought I would show it to you today to see if anyone likes them and would buy one?  It’s 9” wide x 2.4" high and will retail for $45. If you are interested in ordering one (or more), please email me directly at janine@heartforafrica.org and I will bring them back with me when we head to the US/Canada in October.


We need your support more than ever with so many jobs on the line.  Will you shop at Khutsala today or become a Khutsala Ambassador?  THANK YOU!

Live from Eswatini … laughing that we are making snowmen in Africa!

Janine
 

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The heart of Project Canaan is pumping again


Jonathan
Many people think that Project Canaan is all about our children, but some of us would disagree with that.  Project Canaan is so much more than a home for orphaned and abandoned children, it is truly a place of hope in many other ways.

When the drought hit in 2016 the country was devastated.  We had to suspend our farming initiative and I distinctly remember all of the irrigation drip tape being rolled up from the fields and the pipes being put away. It was very depressing.  We had just finished building the greenhouse where we had planned to start a hydroponics program, but there wasn’t even enough water to do that, and so it sat empty.  It wasn’t until our friend Billy Nolan from North Point Community Church asked if we had heard of Aquaponics (which we hadn’t) that we were able to at least start working on that project while we waited for rain and started the monster project of bringing water from the top of our mountain.

While the rains have not yet come, we are now water secure and we have been able to fill our dams, roll out the irrigation drip tape and start planting crops again.  Our greenhouse is full to overflowing with all the tomatoes/cucumbers/peas/red peppers and broccoli that we can eat (and sell).  The aquaponics system is providing us fresh tilapia fish and all different types of organic lettuce that we serve every day. It’s simply wonderful.

Ian checking out the newly planted beet root
But when I say that the heart of Project Canaan is beating again, it is the whole agriculture part of the farm that I am referring to.  We live on a farm, and when nothing is growing on a farm it is disheartening and depressing for all.  The farm is the heartbeat of Project Canaan and while there is a buzz throughout the project as everyone sees the spinach and cabbage flourishing in the fields, it is the rows and rows of beet root that has got everyone talking.

Who would think that beet root would be something that we talk about every day?  I sure didn’t. In fact, Ian is down in the greenhouse and fields multiple times a day to oversee this incredible new crop. We have hired a Farm Consultant from Zimbabwe and he is an expert in his field (and now in our fields 😂) and he is passionate about all things agriculture.   We have a customer who will buy as much beet root as we can produce, so we are planting 150,000 beet root seeds every two weeks in the green house.  They live in the greenhouse for three weeks and then they get moved outside for a week to “harden”, then they get planted in the fields.


We planted our first 150,000 seedings this week and will plant another 150,000 in two weeks. We will start harvesting the beets in eight weeks and then “double crop” the field by preparing and replanting it again.  In the next 12 months we will produce and sell more than 1,100 tons of fresh beet root, which will help feed the country, and also help generate income for Project Canaan.

In addition to this, the beet greens (tops of the beets which are extremely high in nutritional value) will be cut off and distributed to our church partners to add to our child feeding program, providing extra nutrition to children around the country.

The heart of Project Canaan is beating again, and this would not be possible without the 9.5 KM (6 miles) of piping which brings water from the top of our mountain.  Without water security we would not been able to risk the investment for the beet root with the knowledge that the rains still may not come.

Water isn’t just for the crops though, it’s for our swimming pools!!! Now that we have lots of water, and summer has arrived, the pools are open and our sprinklers on on!!  I just had to throw in a cute video and couple of photos for your enjoyment.


Roderick
Live from Eswatini … water is life.

Janine