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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