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Saturday, March 30, 2019

An unpredictable day

Elisha turned 6-years-old and got to go on a Game drive with our volunteers yesterday.
Every day is unpredictable here. We wake up and make our plans for the day, then ask the Lord what His plans for our day are, and then it begins.  We don’t know when a call to pick up a new baby is going to “interrupt” our plans or if plans will change because someone from an Embassy shows up at the gate, a medical emergency occurs or there is a fire to be put out (literally or figuratively).

We did not receive any babies in the months of January or March, but we received eight in the month of February – no rhyme nor reason.  So we go with the flow and hop in the car when we are called.

Our children are on schedules and so their days are predictable and I love that I can jump in to their world at any time and know what they will be doing. For example, if there is a birthday party at the baby home it is at 1:30 PM.  If there is a birthday at the toddler home it is at 3:30 PM. If there is a birthday party at Emseni it is at 4:00 PM.  Toddlers go for a long walk from 9:00 – 10:00 AM and babies nap from 9:15 – 11:00 AM and 3:00 – 5:00 PM, so if I need a baby fix I need to go when they are not asleep.

The rest of the farm is abuzz when 280 workers arrive at 6:00 AM and everything is goes quiet when they leave at  4:00 PM except for the sound of our bigger children playing outside after school. 

Gregory turned 3-years-old this week.
We are currently building Emseni #5 for our girls, and that is a massive construction project that will take 6-7 months.  In addition, our friends at Hummel in Denmark are providing the funds for us to build a regulation size soccer pitch for future games, tournaments and community outreach opportunities.  As two of their people were visiting us this week (shout out to Ann-Sofie and Pia!) we took the opportunity to start clearing the land while the heavy equipment was here for other building projects. We took the Primary School kids to see it and you can see a photo below of the size and scope of the project.

If you squint you can see the children in the right corner of the field.

Our days seem to be busier than ever leaving Ian and I tired, yet fulfilled at the end of the day. I spend most of my days between children’s campus meetings and working on new product designs at Khutsala.  One fills my heart and mind and the other allows me to use my creativity and marketing background.  Ian spends his days in meetings with our construction team, at the greenhouse, discussing dairy plans or handling the many government or local business visitors who drop in unexpectedly.  No day is ever dull, boring or wasted.

We have had a team of volunteers here this week from the The Village Christian Church in Minooka, Illinois and it’s been fun to see the teenagers interact with our kids and staff. Today they are all at three of our church partners doing “well-child checkups” of all the children in each church. This helps us monitor our feeding programs and assess if the children are getting enough food or if there is still malnutrition in the area.  Sadly, the issue of hunger and malnutrition is not getting better here in the tiny Kingdom of eSwatini, but we continue to do what we can for those we serve.

So it’s a quiet Saturday for me, sitting in my yellow chair with Linda-honey (the cat) asleep at my feet.  I have no plans for today other than to write this blog, but I just never know what will happen when my phone rings next.  That is part of the fun of living in Africa, and serving the Lord.

Thank you everyone who bought an avocado keychain last week or made a donation to Heart for Africa to buy an avocado tree!  We have had 267 trees purchased and still need friends to help us reach our goal of 500 trees so that we can plant four different varieties and have fresh and health avocado fruit all year long. Will you buy a tree (or 10) today?  You can buy a keychain by clicking here or you can make a donation on line by clicking here and make a note in the comments that the gift is for avocado trees.


Let all we do this week be Rooted in LOVE.

Live from eSwatini … thankful for a quiet Saturday morning.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Avocados = love.

There is a lot going on here and Project Canaan is more than a home for children in need.  Now that we have water security we can start growing more food on the farm, and we want to start our fruit orchards as well.  We currently grow bananas and dragon fruit, but we want and need to focus on the production of food, as we continue our journey to sustainability, and we have hired an agronomist to help us with this.

As more and more children are placed with us through the Social Welfare department, our expenses continue to rise. The children who are being placed with us are arriving in a greater state of starvation and sickness, requiring very specialized diets.  Our children who are under the 10% height/weight chart are immediately put on the “underweight diet”.  Those who are under 3% (many are far below the very bottom of the height/weight chart) go on a special diet we call the “Jonathan Diet” because it was specially designed for Jonathan who arrived almost dead.  We have 28 children on those diets today.  One of the key elements on those diets is avocados, and we can use a lot of them, but they are expensive.

Jonathan upon arrival - July 2017
Jonathan at Christmas 2018
One of our solutions to this challenge is to plant an avocado orchard on the farm with 500 avocado trees.  We have chosen four different varieties so that we will have fresh avocados all year long, providing this wonderful, healthy and delicious fruit for our children and staff.  And if we have the funds to purchase them we will plant these trees during our 10th anniversary celebration in July.

Here is where you come in. Our Khutsala Artisans have designed and made a fabulous avocado key chain from beads and wire and we are selling them for $12.00. When you buy one of these key chains we will plant an avocado tree in your honor. Think about who you could give a thoughtful gift to today?  Who do you know who LOVES avocados?  We would plant a tree in their honor and you could send them the key chain as a notification of your gift? It’s only $12.00 and you will be providing fruit for life for children in great need.

This is the front and the back of the avocado key chain from Khutsala Artisans

This year we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Project Canaan and our theme is “Rooted in LOVE” and what better way to kick this off than with an opportunity to buy an avocado tree, whose roots will grow deep in to the African soil and provide life for our children for decades to come.

Everything we do, we do in love, and we believe that our friends and families support us for the same reason. Why else would you get on a plane and travel for two days to come and serve? Why else would you write a check to help us build a home or a school for orphaned or abandoned children?  Why else would you buy an avocado tree (or 10) for a farm in Africa?  It’s all because of love.  Will you show us some love today? 

Ian just said, “Just think, we will be able to serve fresh guacamole at our 15th anniversary celebration.”  I like the way the man thinks!

Please shop today by clicking here.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could get all 500 avocado trees purchased this weekend? 

If you just want to buy trees you can make a donation at with a note in the “Comments” section that it is for avocado trees.

Thanks for sending your love in a tangible way today.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Saturday morning dance party to end a full week

This week was just a fun week all around. Our Khutsala Artisans continue to create new items adding fabulous tassel earrings to our list of new products available this week , the 140+ children attending our own Project Canaan Academy are working hard at school and our babies just bring me joy every time I go and see them. This short video is Poppy making her way to bed for "lala" or nap time. She is very proud of herself that she can now crawl.

For those of you who have never been to Project Canaan, it was simply BUSH when we bought the 2,500 acre piece of land in 2009.  There were no roads, no electricity, no water (or river), no fields and no buildings.  Since then we have built 30 miles of road, 60+ buildings, three dams, four 500,000L water tanks with 10+ miles of piping, homes for children/staff/volunteers, schools, vocational training centers, a medical clinic, a dairy, greenhouse and egg laying barns.  We have been working on an aerial video to TRY to capture all that has been done as we are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and today I would like to share it with you!  Please go to and get a tour of the property and get an idea of the scope of this exciting project. I promise you will love what you see.

This week we also started digging the foundation for Emseni #5, which is the dorm for girls that we need to build urgently in order to move our big girls up and make space for our ever growing family. Project Canaan is currently home for 225 orphaned or abandoned children, and we are committed to them until they are 21-years-old.  Our youngest is 4-weeks-old and our oldest children are 8-years-old.   If you would like to participate in this project, you can buy a block (or 10 or 100?) to help us get this building funded and built quickly. We are bursting at the seams! A block can also be a great birthday gift for the person who has everything.  Please check out our link here and buy a block today.

This morning, before writing this blog, we had a Saturday morning dance party and it was SO MUCH FUN!  All 136 children who live at the Emseni Campus came down to dance with the 40 children who live at the toddler home and together these 176 children danced to one of their favorite songs together.  The file is too large for me to load here, but you can see a live video feed of it on the Heart for Africa Facebook page or video on my personal Facebook page if we are friends. In the short video below you can see babies in the background watching the kids rehearse their dance.

This was a great week filled with the usual challenges, the usual disappointments and heartbreak, but also the never-ending joy that comes with total surrender and being exactly where we are supposed to be.

Live from eSwatini … happy Saturday!


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Something has shifted

Photo credit: Bryan Throgmorton
A few months ago I was contacted by a Pastor in the US who wanted to know if we would like a 30 foot high cross planted somewhere on Project Canaan.  They were going to give it to us for free and come and install it, so I said “YES!”.  I didn’t think much more about it until Monday when I realized that Pastors Bill and Carol from Christian Cross Ministries would be here on Friday and we needed to choose a place for the cross.

I met with a few people to get their thoughts and then Bryan and Allen started to slash their way through the bush up a mountain to find the “perfect spot” for the giant cross.  Nothing is easy here, nor was that climb, but once they reached the desired spot Denis and his team went in and cut a path, carried the 550 pound (250 KG) steel cross up the mountain and prepared for the “planting” on Friday.  It was just one more thing on my list of things to do, and I was thankful to have a team of people to do all the heavy lifting (pardon the pun).

It was another hot and sunny day in eSwatini as we made our way up the mountain and then something changed. This “to do list” item became a profoundly important moment in time, ten years after we first stepped foot on the land.  

We are building a traditional Swazi homestead at the bottom of the mountain where our children can continue to learn about their culture, cook over an open fire, sleep under a grass roof and even grind maize. The cross is located above where this homestead is being built and  as I thought about this, I had a sense that something shifted. It’s hard to explain, but it was as if another declaration was being made over the land. We officially dedicated Project Canaan to God in 2009, but putting this cross up, with the blue sky shining and our Primary School children, teachers, volunteers and maintenance crew in attendance went beyond the words “powerful and moving”.  The Swazi homestead represents a new beginning for our children and perhaps this tiny Kingdom and the cross is a reminder of what a new beginning really is all about for all of us.

Painting of the Swazi homestead courtesy of talented Melissa Trivisonno!
I have no idea why God chose Ian and I for this task, but words cannot express how my heart feels knowing that we are fulfilling the calling that He has on our lives. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I were not here.

Speaking of how my heart feels, let me give you a short Nokuphiwa story that will bring you joy!  (If you don’t know who she is please read last weeks blog at ) 

Nokuphiwa has not gone for surgery yet, and is still having testing done and meetings with various doctors. This past week she was invited to an event for children who have been burned, hosted by the Boston Fire Department in conjunction with Shriners hospital.  The kids were learning to paint and when she came out of the building she proudly showed everyone her very first painting.

“What is it?”  I asked. 

I was told that she painted a dolphin diving in the ocean, and written in the clouds is her name.  Think about that for a moment. Here are a group of children, all who have been burned, gathering for an afternoon of painting, and this child from the deep bush in Swaziland paints a dolphin swimming in the ocean.  It is as profound to me as the cross on our mountain top. 

Something has shifted, or maybe it's just me.

Live from Swaziland … I stand in awe of His goodness and mercy.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Nokuphiwa (No-koo-pee-wah)

Nokuphiwa and her BFF Mona Lisa - sweetest photo of all time?
I have never met someone like Nokuphiwa. She is the little burned girl I have mentioned in a few blogs in the past couple of months and I would like to officially introduce you to her today.  She was burned in a house fire when she was only 5-days-old and has suffered with no treatment until today, and she is now 8-years-old. (If you want to read more about Nokuphiwa’s burn story go to

Nokuphiwa left for Boston this past week where she will receive reconstructive surgery at Shriners Hospital in Boston, in partnership with our friends at the Global Medical Relief Fund.  She was accompanied by Nokwanda (from hospitality department at Project Canaan) and Barry Hickman (our friend and husband of Canadian HFA Board member, Carol Hickman) who flew all the way to eSwatini from British Columbia, Canada to escort the two gals to the US as neither had been on an airplane before.

When I first heard about Nokuphiwa I knew that we had to do something to help, but was very uncertain about how to do it without disrupting (or frankly, scaring) our own children who have already been through so much.  Together with our amazing staff, we worked on a plan (read past blog above) and brought her to live with us back in early December.

Within a single day she was the pied piper of Project Canaan with almost all the children loving her immediately (some of the older boys took a bit longer to see past the scars to her heart), and soon loved by all.  Allen, one of our Sr. Supervisors said, “She is like a Princess who finally found her people”.  And what a true statement that is.

Nokuphiwa is pure joy.  She cares for the underdog and scolds a bully.  She dances and sings like no one is watching, but everyone is!  Honestly, it is as if she doesn’t know she was burned. She is perfect, and beautiful and confident and made in His image, and she knows it. She is not ashamed of how she looks and is quick to take off her hat for photos so you can see her full smile (with no lips). 

Nokuphiwa is missing a piece of her skull that should be protecting a main artery in her head. You can see her heart beat through the skin on her skull. The Doctors in Boston have also identified a “leak” up above her where her eyebrow should be. While Nokuphiwa RARELY cries, when she does, that spot “leaks”. They did a CT scan on Friday to assess her skull issues, and also they are looking to see if the leak is from a mis-directed tear duct?  The whole in her skull and the leak are the two priorities for now. Then further plans will be made.

I have been very careful to not post photos of her face for her privacy sake, but I am going to do so today so that you, the reader, can see where she is starting her surgical journey and you will be able to follow along and pray with us for her. am also posting a video that was sent to me yesterday from Nokwanda. It brought me to tears (again).  But I only cry tears of joy for this little girl because SHE IS JOY.

The first thing I want to show you is Nokuphiwa singing a song yesterday.  Nokwanda sent it to me last night and it’s Nokuphiwa (who didn’t want to learn English, but seems to be learning it) singing “God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me”.  I am posting this so that you can see her joy, her authenticity and her personality. I don’t think I would be singing “God is so good” as an 8-year-old if I had been living with a burned head for all of my life. Would you?


Now … you HAVE to read this next part!

The girls are being hosted by our friends Eileen, Joe and Eric Habelow.  When I asked the Habelow’s for the “BIG FAVOR” of hosting two strangers for 3-months while one of the strangers (and a child) underwent life-changing/life-threatening surgery, they prayed about it, talked to their Pastor to get support from their church and then said yes.  THREE weeks before the girls were to arrive at their house, their pipes burst while they were out of town at the Superbowl and it “rained” in their house for days before they got back (to Boston in the dead of winter). They got home to 3.5 feet of water on the top floor and bottom floor of their house and the house looked like a rainforest with water pouring out of ceiling lights, walls and ceilings.  EVERYTHING that they owned was destroyed by water, EXCEPT for all their photos albums and sentimental items. The only wall in the house that was not wet was the one that housed the electrical box, which saved them all from electrocution when they walked through the house testing lights switches. 

In the past three weeks they found a new home to rent, bought furniture, set up house and met Nokuphiwa, Nokwanda and Barry at the airport with more joy and love that can be imagined.  Tear are pouring down my face as I type that. We have done video calls from their house and their car and I just can’t stop crying tears of joy over all that I am seeing happen.  And she hasn’t even started surgery yet! 

Serving God is not easy, but the blessings that come with it are “exceedingly and abundantly more than we can ask for or imagine”.  Just ask Eileen and Joe! 

Special send off service last Sunday at church

Praying for the girls before they left

She insisted that I take a photo of her with the RCMP moose that Uncle Barry got her

FAREWELL!!  See you in May!
I LOVE the way she laughs so hard
Their first time seeing snow!

What are you being asked to do today? Who are you supposed to help? Who are you supposed to be a blessing to?  Please don’t hesitate – just do it.

Thank you Barry Hickman for coming and being the escort for both Nokuphiwa and Nokwanda. Thank you Nokwanda for stepping up to be the guardian for this 8-year-old girl from “deep Swaziland” for the next 3- months of grueling surgery.  Thank you Eileen, Joe and Eric for hosting the girls for the next 3-months, for taking them to Doctors appointments, CT scans and Chinese food. 

Live from eSwatini … I LOVE my life.