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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Free to be themselves

Angel and Lolo - They told Margie that they will be best friends forever.
We now have 245 children who live at Project Canaan.  Our youngest was born last Wednesday and our oldest will turn 9-years in December.  We are the legal guardians of these children until they turn 18-years-old and we are committed to them until they are 21-years-old or until they are finished their formal or informal education and are on their way in the world.  We have an incredible team of people who work with us every day to make this ever-growing village work.   

People who come and spend any time with our children are quick to point out how confident they are (even the shy or quiet ones).  They are surprised and impressed by their ability to communicate with each other and with visitors, often referred to as “new friends” and they often find themselves laughing at the questions being asked, the reminders being given or information disbursed by our children.  Our kids make me laugh, each and every day.

People who don’t spend a lot of time with our children (or have never come to Eswatini) are quick to suggest that our children are all going to be messed up when they get older.  That we are going to need to get some serious counselling for them and then there is the ever helpful comment, “Just wait until they are teenagers! THEN you will have lots of problems! Hahaha.”

Before reading further, please take a moment to watch this really cute video that I took this morning at Jr. Kids Club (for our age 3-5-year-olds).  Look at the joy in their eyes, their actions and at the celebration of the accomplishment by each other and by our staff!

The world is filled with messed up people, even in two parent (Christian) homes children can be abused, broken, hurting or ignored.  We believe that the way to raise emotionally healthy children is to raise them in an environment where they know that they are safe, they know they are loved, they know that they belong and have the freedom to be themselves.  And that is what we are doing.  The Auntie’s and Uncle’s “parenting” these children are doing so every day at home. They are being taught about respect, and about boundaries, and being silly and saying sorry, but first and foremost to love one another.  The foundation of their learning is rooted in the faith and knowledge of a loving heavenly Father who will never leave them nor forsake them. We are not perfect and we will make parenting mistakes, but HE never will.

Why would children being raised that way, from under the age of two (we don’t accept children over that age and 50% of our children arrive under 30-days-old), turn in to messed up children in a few years from now? 

If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the chart below. If you don't know who Abraham Maslow is, he was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.

When you look at the bottom two layers of the pyramid you will see the “basic needs”, which are physiological and safety. None of the children who have been placed with us were given those “basic needs” where they came from and so they respond very well and very quickly once they receive those things from us. 

You may have read me saying that we often have to “love a child back to life”.  Some of the children brought to us are so sick and so broken that love is almost a better medicine than the “basic needs” listed above, but of course they must go hand in hand. That intense love helps to heal their bodies and souls and fulfills their psychological needs.  You should hear the Auntie’s cheers and praise at each child’s accomplishments from taking their first step, to putting the round peg in the round hole.  We celebrate life and we celebrate the one who gives us life.

Ian helping Kaela color a tomato during craft time - celebrating all that God grows on the farm.

Do I think the “teenage years” with hundreds of teenagers living here will be easy? My answer to that is “I LOVE TEENAGERS”, and honestly people, they are not going to be the first teenagers on the planet - we were all teenagers!  And look at us now. We survived, and some of us thrived.  

We are working to raise self-actualized children who will be self-actualized teenagers, and eventually become self-actualized adults.  They will make their own mistakes, have their own challenges, throw their own temper tantrums and even have accidents etc. But we will continue to love them, just as we are today.  They will also win their own awards, overcome their own challenges, work through those temper tantrums and clean up the mess from the accident, and we will be with them to cheer them on, celebrate with them and love them, just as we are today.  That's what Jesus would do.

Recently, one of our young staff members who was raised in an orphanage in Eswatini made a comment about our children and how different they are from the children at the home where he was raised. He said, "These children are so different because they are free to be themselves.  And the staff also are free to be themselves."  Wow.  Those words spoke directly to my heart. 

We are not just in this for today, or for the next year – this is a long-term commitment and one that Ian and I are honored to have been called to. We will not be burned out or scared out or made to be discouraged or to fear the future.  We are keeping our eyes on the Him and letting Him direct each of our steps each day.

Today I would like to thank every person who has been on this journey with us whether it be through child sponsorship, praying with us through sickness, wiping our tears of pain or rejoicing with us seeing miracles.  In truth, the journey has just begun, and we are so very excited about the future for each and every child who is a part of this amazing family. 

If you would like to sponsor baby Douglas who was born and arrived last Wednesday, please do so today by clicking here for US Sponsorship or clicking here for Canadian sponsorship.  Thank you in advance for joining our village. It takes a very large village to raise 245 children.

Live from Eswatini … free to be me.


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