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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Indisputable evidence that HE, GOD, personally did all this.




The sun is rising over the mountains here in Eswatini and the smoke from winter fires is causing a haze that looks very beautiful against the orange sky.

This week we will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Project Canaan and 100+ people are flying in from all over the world to celebrate all that God has done in these past ten years.

Last night we had dinner with the Heart for Africa staff members who are here to prepare for the upcoming trip. We have an incredible team who works diligently in the US to support the work here in Eswatini.  Ian and I are thankful for each and every one of them and simply couldn’t do what we do without them. While celebrating all the good things that have happened in the past ten years, I found myself also remembering many of the hurts that I have felt during those same years, and my heart was sad. 


When I was in business I understood the “rules” of business, managing expectations, delivering against commitments and the importance of integrity.  When we stepped into the Ministry world, it was like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. What should have been up, was down, and what should have been down, was up.

I have often said to Ian that in this Ministry, many people have a “say” or a “vote” in our lives, and what we are supposed to be doing and even how we do it, even when they really don’t have any skin in the game.  Our skin is all in. 

During these past ten years we have lost friends because they didn’t agree with the vision of Project Canaan, we have had donors walk away because they didn’t agree with the importance of bringing water from the top of the mountain so that we could become “water secure” and we have had people say things that have hurt us (and our children) deeply.  But we have continued to follow Jesus, and the vision HE has given us, through it all.

This morning I got up early to shake off all this negativity and start the day with joy and peace, two words that I have been praying for the past few days as I mentally prepare for the week ahead.

Early morning on the farm.
I am one of those people who reads my bible on a tablet, but this morning I went back to my old bible that I was reading when we first started this journey. I was led to Isaiah 41:8-20, which was highlighted many years ago, but when I read it now, I see that it was not only comforting, but incredibly prophetic. I hope you will read the whole scripture – it is PROFOUND.

“But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
“Count on it: Everyone who had it in for you
    will end up out in the cold—
    real losers.
Those who worked against you
    will end up empty-handed—
    nothing to show for their lives.
When you go out looking for your old adversaries
    you won’t find them—
Not a trace of your old enemies,
    not even a memory.
That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.’
“Do you feel like a lowly worm, Jacob?
    Don’t be afraid.
Feel like a fragile insect, Israel?
    I’ll help you.
I, God, want to reassure you.
    The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel.
I’m transforming you from worm to harrow,
    from insect to iron.
As a sharp-toothed harrow you’ll smooth out the mountains,
    turn those tough old hills into loamy soil.
You’ll open the rough ground to the weather,
    to the blasts of sun and wind and rain.
But you’ll be confident and exuberant,
    expansive in The Holy of Israel!
 “The poor and homeless are desperate for water,
    their tongues parched and no water to be found.
But I’m there to be found, I’m there for them,
    and I, God of Israel, will not leave them thirsty.
I’ll open up rivers for them on the barren hills,
    spout fountains in the valleys.
I’ll turn the baked-clay badlands into a cool pond,
    the waterless waste into splashing creeks.
I’ll plant the red cedar in that treeless wasteland,
    also acacia, myrtle, and olive.
I’ll place the cypress in the desert,
    with plenty of oaks and pines.
Everyone will see this. No one can miss it—
    unavoidable, indisputable evidence
That I, God, personally did this
.
    It’s created and signed by The Holy of Israel.
Isaiah 41:8-20 (Message)

This week we celebrate the “indisputable evidence that HE, GOD, personally did all this”. 

Live from Eswatini … today I choose forgiveness.

Janine

If you would like to make a 10th Anniversary gift to help us continue the work at Project Canaan, please do so today by clicking here for a donation in the US or by clicking here for a donation in Canada.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

What happens when God gives you a vision?

If we had said "no", this would not be our view.
On July 6th, 2005 our family was volunteering with an organization called Dream for Africa that served in Swaziland and South Africa. I distinctly recall being at a hotel in White River, South Africa, when a man from Dream for Africa offered Ian and I both paying jobs, Ian in Operations and me in Marketing.   At the time we thought the idea was absurd, but thankfully we had matured enough in our faith to say that we would pray about it (and really meant that).  Later that morning we were reading our daily devotion by Oswald Chambers and it said:

“God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint. Every God-given vision will become real if we will only have patience. Just think of the enormous amount of free time God has! He is never in a hurry. Yet we are always in such a frantic hurry. While still in the light of the glory of the vision, we go right out to do things, but the vision is not yet real in us. God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision. Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor’s hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

The vision that God gives is not some unattainable castle in the sky, but a vision of what God wants you to be down here. Allow the Potter to put you on His wheel and whirl you around as He desires. Then as surely as God is God, and you are you, you will turn out as an exact likeness of the vision. But don’t lose heart in the process. If you have ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.”

Here we are, 14 years (5,110 days later… but who’s counting?), and preparing to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Project Canaan – the place that we now call home in the tiny Kingdom of Eswatini, Africa. 
Home sweet home.
As Oswald said, we have been battered, put through fires and floods (literally and figuratively), put on the Potter’s wheel to be whirled around, all in preparation to be used by Him for His purposes.  He has directed us to build a home that currently houses 238 orphaned or abandoned children, and will be home to hundreds more in the years to come.

Project Canaan is a Place of Hope and a place of safety. I have no idea why God chose us out of the 7 BILLION people in the world, to do this work, but I sure am glad He did!

Don’t be afraid of God’s calling on your life.  Who knows? You might get really lucky and be sent to Africa!

Live from Eswatini … preparing for the celebrations.

Janine
"We need more diapers please!"

PS - please be sure to go to our Amazon Baby registry and buy some diapers and/or wipes for our children. They will be shipped in a container coming our way in August.  Just click here to shop! 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Update on Nokuphiwa and thoughts from her host - Eileen Habelow



Many of you have been following the journey of a little girl named Nokuphiwa (or affectionately known as Phiwa, pronounced Pee-wah).  You can read more about her story at https://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2019/04/violet-or-graphic-content.html. 

When I was first approached about her terrible burns, I felt helpless as we don't take in 8-year-old children. Our age cut off is 24 months, but someone had to do something, and we took action in faith that the Lord would show us the way.   The journey lead us all to Boston, where our friends Eileen and Joe Habelow said "yes" to hosting Phiwa and her legal guardian (our staff member Nokwanda) for an unknown amount of time with unknown emotional and physical repercussions.  

As the girls prepare to come back home to Eswatini and rest before the next HUGE surgical procedure (crainioplasty) in early 2020, we are working on the best possible plan for Phiwa's recovery and future. Please join us in praying for His direction and wisdom.

I thought that many of you would like to hear from Eileen and her family as to how the five month visit with Phiwa and Nokwanda has affected their lives.  Eileen agreed to write from her heart, and I know you will be blessed by her words below.

From Eileen Habelow:

"Phiwa.  She has melted hearts and changed minds.  Just being Phiwa, she has changed the perspective of all who used to have pity in their eyes; but that pity has now shifted to pure admiration.  She has won the ‘favorite’ label from doctors, nurses, and therapists.  Phiwa came here to have round one of many surgeries at the amazing Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Boston.  So, she has begun a physical transformation on the outside - but even when the physical changes are successful beyond measure, nothing will ever be beautiful enough to match her inside self!  Her spirit is so bright.



“That girl” is something we said often with love and awe.  Phiwa does not see herself in a mirror.  Phiwa sees herself just as God has made her – her bubbly energy is uplifting, and her giggles are infectious.  In many ways she is a typical 9-year old little girl who wants to ride her bike, go to the park, tease the dogs, wrestle with her ‘brother’, snuggle with her ‘sisters’, play with Barbies, challenge authority and use the iPad.  Oh… and watch Frozen, Coco, and Lion King until the entire household can recite words, sing the songs, and mimic the dance moves.



But Phiwa is far from being a typical 9-year old little girl!  As a newborn she endured pain we cannot imagine.  She has scars and disfigurements that make her look different and cause others to stare.  While those two things definitely make her not typical, in my eyes there is so much more that makes Phiwa unique and amazing. 



Through the 4 ½ months Phiwa has spent in our home, our church family, friends, and extended friends in Atlanta have blessed Phiwa with gifts.  Everywhere she went, people wanted to help by providing clothing, toys, and even a new hair-do!  Before Phiwa came to America you can imagine she had little to her name, not much to call ‘her own’.  You might think that coming here she would be spoiled by the showers of gifts.  But each and every time she received something, she shared.  She immediately offered a toy to others to have.  She has already gifted me with two of her favorite stuffed animals that I will treasure.  Phiwa is a little girl who comes from little, but is a naturally unselfish giver.




Phiwa is very energetic, but also has a quiet confidence.  When Phiwa went to church the very first Sunday, she went straight to children’s group.  She quickly acclimated and a few children were immediately comfortable with her – friendly and playful.  When Phiwa came home from church she told us she had a few friends already and that there were a few other children who didn’t really play with her this week.  However, she exclaimed, ‘they will play with me next week, though!’  And they did.  Phiwa realized that some children need time.  And she gave them that time.  By the time she had been here a month, we had a birthday party for Phiwa with 10-12 other children and every one of them wanted to be by Phiwa’s side.  When we visited our sister church for the first time, our nieces and nephews took Phiwa into their circle and loved her just by being with her.  We even overheard one little girl exclaim ‘Phiwa is here!  She is finally here!’.  That’s God’s love.




Mark my words – Phiwa is going to do something BIG in our world and it is going to be something incredible.  I can’t wait to watch this little beauty grow and take her place in the world.  God has big plans for Phiwa!

 

And the saying goes that behind every great leader there is a great team.  Well, in this case behind every amazing child there is an equally amazing caregiver.  Nokwanda said yes… even at the last minute.  Nokwanda traveled with a child she had known for 2-months… on a plane ride she had never experienced before… to a continent and country she had only seen in movies.  Nokwanda arrived with a confidence that comes from saying yes to a big God.  Her facial expressions are an open book.  She is full of a love she didn’t even know until now.




Early in their visit, we printed lots of pictures to start our scrapbooks.  One touching moment was when Nokwanda said to me “I now clearly see my role in Phiwa’s life through these pictures”.  Wow.  Nokwanda was naturally nurturing, loving, caring for, disciplining and shepherding a beautiful young Swazi girl who desperately needed her.  But, she needed the pictures to clearly see the impact of her caregiving role on Phiwa.  The connection they have built is with cords that can never be broken.



Our family is forever changed because of this experience with Phiwa and Nokwanda.  All three of our adult children refer to them as their sisters.  Phiwa’s first words after surgery were “where is my brother Eric?”.  Her second request – “where is Max?”  Max is our family dog!  The greeting Phiwa and Eric give each other every single day when Eric got home from work is priceless.  And the relationships forged with our daughters via regular FaceTime, sleepovers in Atlanta with Melissa and a week at home with AnnMarie will forever be a part of our family fabric.




I am not ready to imagine the void that is coming to our home when these two beauties leave Boston.  The girls may leave our city, but the memories and the relationships are forever.  We have become family.  And for that, we are eternally grateful.



1Samuel 16:7 is a favorite verse of mine – “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  the Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”


Wouldn’t it be great if we could all do the same?  In this, Phiwa is the teacher!"
 
Live from Eswatini ... we look forward to seeing what is next for this young girl.

Janine

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Baby #237 and #238 (what were we thinking?)


Yesterday marked the 10th Anniversary of when we officially dedicated the land which we now call “Project Canaan” and “home”.  I just can’t believe that it has been 10 years!  So much has been accomplished in such a short time, which is a testament to God, and Him alone.  Without Him, none of this would be possible. 


We are busy preparing for the official 10th Anniversary celebration in only three short weeks, which means children are in daily rehearsals, the amphitheater is under construction (fingers crossed for completion!) and new people are joining the guest list every day.  I feel an excitement that is unexplainable and just yesterday I was saying that I feel like I am on a sugar rush because my body is overly stimulated with all that is going on. 

Never in our wildest imaginations did we think that 10 years after dedicating the land that we would be raising 238 children (under the age of 9) and responsible for 300+ employees.  What we did know was that this was a “Promised land”, and while it looked like bush to everyone else around us (many who did not support or believe in the vision), it looked like a place of hope to us.  And that is what it is today.

Yesterday we received two more children, both in desperate need.  One just turned 2-years-old last week and her baby sister is 8-months-old. They were living in a tent in a very rural area (it was 8C/46F last night) with no heater and no food.  There had been many reports of neglect, and then Social Welfare stepped in to rescue the children.  It’s always a bitter sweet day when we receive a child. It’s sad knowing the situation/conditions that the child is coming from, but great knowing that they are coming to a place of safety, love and hope.  It’s sad that they are not with their biological family, but wonderful that they are in the family that God has placed them in “for such a time as this”.  I too was fortunate to be placed in a loving home where the trajectory of my life changed, all because my biological mother put me up for adoption.  I am here in Africa because of her decision, and I am thankful for that.

Our friend Cissy Watson holding new arrival "Cissy".

Auntie Gcebile holding new arrival "Candy".

These two girls are babies #237 and #238, and at times I stop and find myself asking the question "What were we thinking? This is crazy!"  But I know the answer is that we weren't thinking, we were just listening and being obedient, and that is always the best plan. 

As we look at the big picture of the past 10 years, we also must keep our eyes on the small details of day-to-day living, and that includes diapers!  Today we are kicking off our annual Diaper & Wipe Drive on Amazon.  This simple initiative allows people from all over the world to join in and be a part of our ever-growing family by just clicking on this link to help us provide care for our babies.  We change 400+ diapers each and every day and use 1,300 wipes. That means we go through 146,000 diapers every year and almost 500,000 wipes!  We are not able to use re-washable diapers because of disease and cross contamination between children.   This campaign helps us reduce our fundraising needs for our babies and also invites people who might not already be involved with Heart for Africa to join the family!

Will you take a moment and buy some diapers or wipes today?  We really need your help!

Thank you for your love and support. 

Live from Eswatini … it’s another busy day in the Kingdom!

Janine

Saturday, June 15, 2019

3-month-old twin girls


Twins Lily and Lucky - both severely malnourished.
I know this will sound completely crazy, but many (if not MOST) of the times we get a call about a baby in need, we will be given very incorrect information initially.  I could be picking up a newborn baby at the hospital and told by the nurses that it is a boy and then when I go to change the diaper and dress the baby, it is definitely a girl. I am not sure why this happens so often, if the sex of the child isn’t as relevant to my Swazi friends as it is to us or what, but it happened again this week.

We were called about two 3-month-old girls (twins) who were starving to death. The mother was leaving them alone with preschool age children and none of them had anything to eat.  When we went to pick up the babies we found 8-month-old twins - a girl and a boy.  The “starving” part was accurate, particularly for the little boy (whom we are calling “Lucky”).  When we took both babies to see the doctor, the doctor was very familiar with them and had admitted them in the hospital for malnutrition on multiple occasions, only to have them come back after being discharged. The mother simply had no food and no ability to care for them. Lucky was admitted to the hospital again (he only weighs 9 pounds/4.5 KG)  the very next morning and will stay there until his little body is stabilized. 

The photo at the top of this blog is Lily (left) and Lucky (right).   The photo below is of our little boy named Josiah (left) and Lucky (right). Lucky is one day OLDER than Josiah, and you can see the significant size difference. That is the difference between a baby coming to us as a newborn (which 60% of our babies come to us under 30-days-old) and getting a child after he/she has suffered for a long time.  Sometimes the results are irreversible and sometimes they can make a full recovery, but we won’t know the long-term cognitive effects for many years.

These two boys are the same age - Lucky (right) is stunted from malnutrition.
Lily and Lucky are our 12th set of twins.  We also have 10 sets of biological siblings (not twins), but we learned yesterday that Lily and Lucky’s older brother also lives at Project Canaan.  He is our toddler named “Innocent”.  The mother of these children has had TEN babies – three are with us, three have died of starvation and we don’t know where the other four are. 

On Thursday the Project Canaan Academy had their annual talent show, and as always, it was OUTSTANDING.  The winning act of the show was the Comic Duo of Jerimiah and Grace.  For those of you who don’t know these two children, Jerimiah is very serious, reserved and unexpressive and Grace is the child whom we were told would never sit, walk or talk.  Jeremiah delivered the joke “Why are fish so smart?” and Grace would respond “Why Jeremiah?” and they brought the house down with laughter! 


The video below shows Jeremiah start by saying, in his mono-tone voice, “We are going to tell you some really funny jokes, I hope you are ready to laugh.”


The reason I share this with you is two-fold. First, I LOVE how our staff know the children so well and work hard to use their gifts (in this case Jeremiah is very smart and could memorize two full minutes worth of jokes!) and second because these children were left alone to die but God had and has a plan for each of them and we are here to help them live their best lives.  In fact, Jeremiah was given his name from Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  

Can I get an “amen”?

Both Lily and Lucky now have a chance to live their best lives and we need your help to do that.  Will you please consider signing up to sponsor one of them today?



Live from eSwatini … it’s good to be home.

Janine

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Oh, how times have changed.



Yesterday my firstborn child turned 25-years-old. It’s hard to get my head around the fact that I am the mother of someone who has been alive for 25 years, but it’s true.  Our family is together in Barcelona this week to celebrate with Spencer, celebrate our family and have a nice holiday together. (If you don’t know how or why we came here please read last week’s blog at https://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2019/06/who-would-do-that.html).

Last night we celebrated his birthday on a rooftop patio that had the famous La Sagrada Familla Temple in the background (which made for epic photos and an evening that no one will ever forget).  Spencer had friends from his first Master degree program at Queen’s University in Canada fly in from all over the world (where they are living now), a friend from his high school days in Georgia arrived and another 70+ friends from his Master degree program here in Barcelona.  There was great food, great music and great conversations with young people from all over Europe, getting ready to start out in the world as adults.  I was fascinated, stimulated and thoroughly enjoyed my time with them all.  Suffice it to say Ian and left the party at midnight as “the kids” went on to other venues. 

Ian reminded me that when Spencer was small, he didn’t like the house parties that we had back in Ontario. The music was too loud, there were too many people and he would either go upstairs and put himself to bed or head over to the neighbors house where it was quieter.  Oh, how times have changed.  

While looking for photos of the birthday boy I came across this photo of Spencer’s 11thbirthday, taken in Swaziland during our first family visit in 2005. Never in a million years did I think that photo would kick off a lifetime of service in the tiny Kingdom of eSwatini, that has now become our home.  Oh, how times have changed.

Spencer's birthday in 2005 - our first visit to Swaziland as a family.
Last night we had SO MANY people come up and express their interest and thanks for what our family is doing in eSwatini. They had heard many of the stories from Spencer about big dogs and snakes, to firearms and break-ins, to burnt babies and wild monkeys – all from a proud son talking about his family with pride.  Near the end of the evening one of Spencer’s friends told me about a conversation they had, during a holiday in Mallorca, Spain, when Spencer was talking about his little brothers and sisters in eSwatini. The friend said that he was moved when Spencer spoke of the little ones because his eyes lit up and he got emotional when talking about them. He could see how special those children really are to Spencer.  Yes, I cried when he told shared that story with me. 

NDCA Primary school in Newmarket, Canada
Spencer, we are so very proud of you and all that you have accomplished, but more importantly for the person you have become. I can’t wait to see where the journey of life takes you, but always know that God has a plan for your life and you will always have us cheering you on from the sidelines!

My favorite Spencer photo - Murphy, our dog, liked to keep his face clean at all time
Live from Barcelona … celebrating family.

Janine 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Who would do that?



Some of you may remember my Christmas blog titled “The truth about the perfect Christmas” (you can click here to read it).  I was kind of feeling sorry for myself because I had so little time with Spencer and Chloe at Christmas, but at the same time was trying to remind myself to be grateful for the time that I had and to “give thanks in all things”.

A few days after I posted that blog I got an email in response to my blog that shocked me. This is what it said:

Janine,

Thanks for sharing your heart in your blog! I needed that reality check and attitude adjustment. I was so feeling the same way (really bummed I got very little quality time with my adult kids that I get precious little time with) Obviously not focused on what really matters most. And I totally felt ridiculous after I read your blog! But yes, we all want perfection.  So, I got busy and planned another time to be with them. 

Please let me do that for you! You NEED that! You give so much and do so much for so many!  Let us help you all plan/fund a family vacation! Let’s get everyone to Spain or let’s find a good meeting spot - where you can turn off your brain for a bit and relax together as a family.

I know school schedules are at play - can you work on a couple of weeks that you all can be together?  Nothing would bring us more joy than bringing you joy!

We love you Janine and we will continue to support your life’s work! You did and are doing the right thing! I know it must be so very hard! You are admired and adored!
Looking forward to blessing you in this way!

We serve an amazing God who is on the throne - He wants time with us like we want time with our kids - He loves to bless us in special and extravagant ways!”

What??  Who would do that?  Who would buy a vacation for another family and offer to send them to Barcelona to be together?

Well, I won’t tell you who did it, but I will tell you that I am writing this blog in a beautiful hotel in downtown Barcelona, Spain.  We arrived yesterday and had a wonderful afternoon with Spencer, followed by tapas in the coolest restaurant that couldn’t have been more than 8 feet wide and 60 feet long.  It was like a restaurant that Ian and I would have hung out in “back in the day”, but this time we got to sit and talk and laugh with Spencer and one of his roommates.


 Chloe got on a plane at 8:30PM last night, Toronto time, and will be landing in Barcelona in a couple of hours.  We will spend a whole week together as a family seeing Barcelona, eating, laughing, doing a Cava tour tomorrow, taking a cooking class to learn how to make Paella and then celebrating Spencer’s 25th birthday on Friday, June 7th at one of the coolest rooftop patios I have ever seen. Below is a photo that I snapped when we were there checking out the venue.  


But most importantly, we are together as a family, just enjoying each other’s company, which is what we do best, all because someone read my blog and was prompted to give and love us generously, no matter what the cost.

Ian and I are so incredibly proud of our two children.  Spencer is finishing his double Master degrees here in Spain and will defend his thesis on June 12th and then head to eSwatini the next day for our 10th anniversary celebration.  Chloe just finished her 3rd year at Brock University and will fly to Denmark next Sunday for a summer internship at the sporting goods company called Hummel.  She too will be able to fly down to eSwatini for our 10th anniversary celebration (meeting Spencer at the airport in Dubai J and traveling the rest of the way with him).


Our lives were flipped upside down when we heard the call of God on our family, but never did he drop us, leave us, abandon us or forget us as we tumbled through the turbulent waters of obedience.  What many people thought was crazy and irresponsible, turned out to be a magical journey in a world that was “exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask for or imagine”.

I hope this blog will encourage each and every one of you who calls yourself a “follower of Jesus” to stop being afraid.  God’s got you in the palm of His hands and HE cares about your family and loves your family even more than you do!  

Stop and imagine that for a moment, then take that step of faith.  It will not be easy, but it will be a blessed journey that you will never regret it.

Thank you so much to the generous friends who gave us this beautiful gift of “time”. 

Live from Barcelona … it is the best Saturday morning.

Janine

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Tattoos and tears


Let me start this blog by telling you that I have made many epic parenting “fails” in the 25 years that I have been a mom.  I won’t shame myself or bore you with those details today. I would also say that we have been pretty strict parents, and Spencer and Chloe might chime in here, but it’s my blog, so they can’t, but we said “no” to lots and lots of things they wanted, especially tattoos.

Spencer was the first to want a tattoo.  I don’t like tattoos. Well, it’s not that I don’t like them, I have seen lots of tattoos that are really cool, it’s just that I didn’t want them on my child and I would give all the reasons why I didn’t want him to get one “it’s permanent, you can’t erase it, you’ll never get a job with a tattoo (even though he wanted it on his rib cage), etc”.  In the end, we left it at “when you are 18-years-old you can do what you want with your body”.  And he did.

Next, it was Chloe.  My daughter wants a tattoo??  Same arguments were made, same conversations, and at the age of 18 she got her first tattoo.  In fact, Ian and I took her to a tattoo parlor in Cape Town and watched it happen. She chose to get the word “Agape” written in Greek on her foot.  Not so bad, if you have to have a tattoo.

In the past seven years there have been a few others, on both Spencer and Chloe, each time they would tell me they were getting another tattoo and send me a photo asking if I liked it.  Trying to be a loving and supportive mom, I would tell them yes. In fact, they both got really cool tattoos with a world map, which helps them tell their personal stories, in short, when someone asks them “where are you from” or “where does your family live”.  A map on your body that includes eSwatini/Canada/Taiwan and the US is very helpful. 😂


And then this happened.

A few weeks ago Chloe asked me to send her photos of cool African trees.  I didn’t ask why and took photos as I walked around the farm. Then she told me that she was thinking about getting another tattoo. I smiled and asked what kind of a tattoo? 

A tree in our front yard

Here is what she said, “I want to have a cool African tree that represents Swaziland, my experiences and how they’ve shaped me and helped me to grow to be who I am now. I want to include a heart because my heart is in Swaziland and our home there will always be a constant for me, and I also want something that represents Heart for Africa and how incredible Project Canaan has grown to be over the past 10 years. The roots on the tree represent my uprooted lifestyle, but that a big part of me is still in Swaziland.  Overall, I want a tattoo that shows how Swaziland and Heart for Africa have shaped my life and helped me grow, and that I want to continue to support you guys till the end 😀.”

That is where the “tears” part of this blog title comes in.  While I know that both Chloe and Spencer FULLY support the work we are doing here, I also thought that deep down there might be some resentment or regret of the life that they used to have.  The “normal” life of middle class teenager living in Canada or the US that was taken away from them when we decided to pack up and move to Africa (and get them 233 brothers and sisters).   But here she was custom designing a tattoo that represented her love for us, for the mission and for the complicated journey that she has been on.

Chloe sent me a photo of the design, then a photo of her tattoo. I showed Ian (who has more of a visceral response to tattoos) and he said, “Wow, that’s a really cool tattoo.  Who’s arm is that?” 


I paused, didn’t answer, and he looked closer and said, “Is that Chloe?  Well, it IS a really cool tattoo”. 

Yesterday I asked Chloe if I could write a blog about her tattoo and the journey, and it was her turn for tears.

Tattoos and tears – just a couple of things that I love about my darling girl who I will be seeing next week as we join Spencer in Barcelona for his 25th birthday.  I am so very proud of both of our children and that adults that they have become, tattoos and all.

Live from eSwatini … I remain rooted in love.

Janine

PS - Chloe's tattoo story happened before she saw our 10th anniversary theme of "Rooted in Love". HOW COOL is THAT?!





Saturday, May 18, 2019

What’s going on at Project Canaan?


 This video is of some of our underweight children eating fresh avocado. 
I hope you enjoy their smiles and laughter.
 
The days are getting shorter and colder as winter is on her way to us here in eSwatini.  The sun comes up at 6:30 AM and is down by 5:15 PM and the temperatures dip to the frigid 55F (12 C) and "only" hit 83F (28 C) during the day leaving most of our Swazi friends bundled in winter coats, wool hats and even scarves (and this Canadian in a short sleeve shirt!).

The weeks leading up to our 10th Anniversary celebration in July seem to be getting busier than ever before and Ian and I find ourselves sitting at the end of the day with our heads spinning with all that is going on.  Emseni #5 is well underway with hopes to be fully built by October so the big girls can move in.  The foundation for our new preschool will start on Monday (it will be double in size of the current one, and the current school will become an infirmary/children’s clinic at the children’s campus). 

Emseni #5 Girls home

We are building an amphitheater near the Living Water Dam which will be where we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Project Canaan, but it will also be where we have Sunday church services and special performances. 



Our field farming and greenhouse farming are in full swing with lettuce being grown in our aquaponics program, cucumbers/tomatoes/beets/cabbage/beans/peas being grown in our hydroponics program and sweet potatoes and onions grown in the fields. 


We are finishing up building an abattoir so that we can slaughter all of our own meat (chickens, beef cattle and goat), and just yesterday we welcomed six sheep to the family (Ian has always wanted sheep!) so they will also be a part of our meat consumption in the future.



Then there are the other projects like our welding team building bike racks for the Emseni homes, making chairs at the Kufundza Center for the Nkonyeni Golf Resort, renovating the floors at the Oasis dining hall/kitchen (WHAT A MESS), and installing two new kilns at Khutsala so that we can make more SwaziMUD beads.  



We also welcomed home three new children this week – one newborn who was found at a bus stop late one night with no blanket and no diaper.  The other two are siblings who come from a sad story of illness and abuse.  Project Canaan is now home to 232 children.

Our toddlers welcoming "the new kid". Heart warming to say the least.
Things are hopping here, and we are loving all that we are seeing get done. We are thankful for an incredible staff (300+ strong now), wonderful Supervisors who oversee every department and a great team of long-term volunteers who work alongside our Swazi family. 

Thank you for reading my blog, week after week, and praying for us all.  This week had some difficulties that I am not able to share, and which had me in bed by 8:30PM several nights, but the Lord is our strength and our shield, and as our children sing “If God is for us, who can be against us?”.

Live from eSwatini … taking a quiet day today.

Janine