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Saturday, August 10, 2019

The chapel built in memory of a father I never knew

Some of you may know that the chapel that burned down in the July 19th fires was built in memory of my father, but what many of you likely don’t know is that it wasn’t the father who raised me (Russell Willis), it was my biological father whom I never met.

Let me explain.

In my blog  I shared the story of my birth in 1963. My mother was a 15-year-old girl who got pregnant by her teenage boyfriend and was sent away to a home for unwed mothers to give birth in secret. To this very day, only her parents (my biological Grandparents) knew that I existed, and the secret died with them.  I am still a secret to the rest of her family.

I am also a secret to my biological father’s family, or at least I was until 10 years ago, when I was 45-years-old.  Through a VERY strange set of “coincidences” I discovered who my biological father was. This was not something I was pursuing or even wanted to know. I was curious, but not curious enough to seek out the information. The information dropped in to my lap, so to speak.  He was murdered, and I went to his funeral, slipping in to the back row so that no one would suspect I was his “love child from another mother” (that was Ian’s line).  Of course they wouldn’t, no one knew, but I was still totally paranoid.  I sat and watched his wife, his children and the rest of his family mourn his loss. It was surreal, and frankly, weird.

Some time later, (I need to be a bit cryptic to maintain his anonymity) I came face to face with my biological father’s sister, and was forced to reveal my identity to her. She and her husband are followers of Jesus, and while my existence was an earth-shattering shock to a family who “had no secrets”, they quickly regrouped and welcomed me in to their immediate family.  This news was not to be shared with others, but we began a relationship that exists to this day.

When I first met my Aunt, Heart for Africa had just purchased the 2,500 acres of land that we now call Project Canaan.  We were building the Farm Manager’s Building (FMB – the first building on the property) and they asked what building was next. We told them that we wanted to build a chapel so that everyone who came to the land would know that we are doing this because we are followers of Jesus, not because we are just “good people” or humanitarians.  Our reason is because HE has asked us to do this, and we are obeying.

My Aunt then told me that she would like to give us the funds to build the chapel, in memory of my biological father, whom I had never met, and who had never acknowledged my existence.  Can you imagine such a gift? And why?

I have said this this many many times … ONLY God can make a baby.  There are many people who have had sex who have not gotten pregnant.  But this teenage couple had sex, got “unlucky” (in their minds) and I was born.  I will not make this a pro-life issue, but I am really thankful that they were not able to abort me in 1963, and I am even more glad for Bernice and Russ Willis who adopted me and raised me in a God-loving home.  It is because of those key turning points in my life that I am here today in the Kingdom of Eswatini, mother to 241 Swazi children. 

So, back to the chapel.  Why would God want my biological father honored in such a way? Why would He then burn down “his house”, ten years later, during a fire that only burned one building out of 63 available buildings?

Why were MANY people emailing me telling me that they were praying for a double blessing, a double portion to be bestowed on us as we work through the time or repairing and rebuilding?

Why would someone from Texas, who has never been to Eswatini or even seen the chapel, make a donation for $40,000 so that we can completely rebuild the chapel and DOUBLE its size?

I don’t have the answers to any of the above questions, but I do see the hand of God in each and every step of this story.  I don’t believe in coincidences, but I do believe in a heavenly Father who loves me even more than my adoptive father or biological father ever could. They are both deceased now and have left me here on earth, but my heavenly Father will never leave me, nor forsake me, and that is the message that I hope each and every one of you hear today.

That is the lesson we are teaching all of the children who are brought in to our ever growing home, including the two little boys who arrived yesterday.

18-month-old baby Bruce

12-day-old baby Oliver

“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua 24:15

We still need funds to complete the repairs around the farm, if you feel led to help out in this way, please click here to make a donation in the US or click here to make a donation in Canada.

Live from Eswatini … I am in awe.


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