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Saturday, April 25, 2020

HOPE shatters uncertainty!

It feels like time is twisting in the wind.  Some days feel like weeks, some weeks feel like months, and all this craziness is perhaps just getting started here.

The uncertainty that the world is feeling is no less uncertain here. Our children’s campus staff have been on lock down for 60 straight days now, living with and caring for 261 children (some with broken bones, pneumonia and other childhood illnesses), but not once have I heard a complaint or a cross word.  Last week, in our weekly meeting, my Sr. Supervisors told me that the staff were tired, and they were uncertain if we would keep them locked down for another month (or more).  They all have families back at their homesteads and many of them have children who are being cared for by their mother or Grandmother.  Uncertainty.

Discipleship involves communication, during the good times and the bad, and an important part of discipleship to me is teaching my staff how to problem solve. We all got together and worked on a plan to give a much-needed rest to 80 staff who live with the children 24/7 x 8 weeks.  For the past eight days/nights, a group of ten staff members (mixed from all homes) were driven up to The Lodge (our long-term volunteer building that has five double rooms and two dormitories).   

We delivered all their favorite food, with a fresh food pack delivered each day for them to start fresh. The people who love to cook, did the cooking.  They grilled more meat than they could (or should) eat. We delivered loads of firewood to have a bonfire and eat s’mores. They feasted at breakfast on fresh papaya and eggs from the farm, and their treasured Corn Flakes. Lunch was another meal of grilled sausage (boerewors) on a fresh bun with mustard and Nik Naks. They also received a personal care kit.

Each night when I let out dogs out of their day pen I could hear laughter and singing and joy rolling down the mountain towards our home.  They would send me photos of the group grilling, feasting or just being silly and then send beautiful messages of thanks for all that they had received.  Thank you to each and every person who has given so generously and sent words of encouragement to our staff.  

Moving forward our staff will have the option to go home for the five-day break, but most of them want to stay locked down on Project Canaan, saying that this is the safest place to be.  I completely agree. Those that do need or want to go home will go through a screening when they return and then wear a mask for seven days upon their return.  They will get double pay on the days they don’t take off. We are really hoping to avoid any contact with the dreaded COVID-19.  If we have the funds available we will do something similar for the staff in May to continue help with physical, emotional and mental health. If you would like to make a contribution to help give our children’s campus staff a break you can do so by clicking here for the US and clicking here for a donation in Canada.

 Here is one of the teams singing and praising God for his provision and love for them!

Then there are the Project Canaan staff who were considered “non-essential” at the end of March, and were told to stay at home. They have no money to buy any food for their families for the month of May, but because of YOU, the readers of this blog and other friends and family of Heart for Africa, we were able to buy enough food for 170+ staff for TWO+ months! Yesterday and today we had the privilege of driving with two delivery trucks and an incredible team of Project Canaan workers to deliver these food packs to families in Sigceneni, Gebeni and even to those who live far from us. 

God is good, all the time, and we continue to see His hand of provision, protection and love each and every day. Thank you for reading this blog each week and sharing it with others. The world needs HOPE and we know that ours is only found in Jesus Christ. I hope that message is seen loud and clear through Project Canaan and the whole Heart for Africa family.

Live from Eswatini … I saw HOPE shatter uncertainty this week.


Saturday, April 18, 2020

An Important message from Ian and Janine Maxwell

Children who live at the Kibbutz on Project Canaan, whose parents will not get paid in April.

March 27th was the last pay day on Project Canaan.  Most of our "essential workers" (Children's campus Aunties and Uncles) were locked down and did not get their monthly four days off.  The "non-essential workers" took their salaries (averaging $100 to $150 US for the entire month) and went to town to buy food for the month of April.

A total of 169 Project Canaan staff walked out our gate, not knowing when they would be called back to work, and the country is now locked down until mid-May. That means that 169 families will not have ANY food for the month of May.  Nothing.  They don’t have pantries stocked up, they don’t have refrigerators or freezers at home, and the food is almost gone from their March pay.
These 169 staff are our family, they are our friends and they are our loyal, hard-working employees. 85 of them worked at Khutsala Artisans, but now they aren’t allowed to come to work.  I worked side by side with them five days a week, and now the building is empty and those workers, and their children are afraid.

Both parents worked at Khutsala, and now they have no income to feed their children

Heart for Africa has worked on a plan, using the produce from our own farm, to pull together highly cost effective food packs for a family of eight for a MONTH for only $75 US.  In fact, there is $25 of MannaPack from Feed My Starving Children included in the pack so they really will get $100 worth of food, for the price of $75. But they don’t have $75.  They have nothing.  
This single young mother needs your help.

Ian and I went on line this morning and bought ten food packs that we are calling “Partner in HOPE” program, but today HOPE stands for Help Our People Endure.  As we await the monster attacking the world to start to sweep across Eswatini, staying healthy through nutrition is the only way that our staff can try to keep their families safe while they practice social distancing.  Today I am begging you (and I hate begging) to join us in feeding one family, two families or maybe even ten?  It’s as easy as clicking on this link and sharing this link with everyone you know who cares about the Project Canaan family, or people in desperate need.

This is the link for our Canadian friends and family

This morning I opened my iPad to read my morning devotion, then I went to my bookmark in Proverbs. This is what was on that page, “He who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in his own time of need.” Proverbs 21:13  

Wow.  I was shocked at the words on that very page. It was then that Ian and I went on line and purchased meal packs for ten families.

Food pack #1 - possible April 27th delivery with funding

If we can raise the funds to do this, the food packs will be delivered in two segments with dried goods (maize flour, sugar beans, soap, MannaPack, cooking oil) and fresh food (eggs, butternut squash, 5 POUND papayas, and fresh milk from the farm) on April 27th, and then a second delivery of fresh food and more soap will be delivered on May 11th.  We hope to continue this until everyone is back to work and can buy their own food, but we really, really need your help at this time.  If we can’t help with food, we will most certainly lose a lot of our work force and their children will be left behind.  The impact will be horrific and devastating. 

Food pack #2 - possible May 11th delivery with funding.
The photos below are of just a few of the families who live on Project Canaan with their children and need food soon.  Will you help them eat? Please?

Live from Eswatini … our family needs food, and they need it soon.

Ian and Janine

P.S. The papayas that we want to deliver weigh 4-5 pounds each and they are being harvested off the papaya trees that many of you bought last year. We planted them in July 2019 and each tree is laden with 12-15 of these giant pieces of fruit.  We can hardly fathom this harvest “for such a time as this”.

The papayas are bigger than our heads!

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Looking at our children’s health through the lens of COVID-19

With 261 children living at Project Canaan we have a lot of health issues every day. We deal with “the normal” HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, asthma, boils (lots of boils!) and allergies, but we also have bicycle accidents, playground falls from kids just being kids.

COVID-19 has not appeared on campus yet, that we know of, but knowing that it is hiding in the bushes around us makes all of the above more complicated, and tense.  Two weeks ago, Miriam had a serious bike accident resulting in a head injury and broken tibia and fibula.  It took ten days before she could see the only orthopedic surgeon in the country for surgery, and that was at a private hospital, and another two days for us to get a one sentence report of what surgery had been done. 

Earlier this week our little boy Simeon (3.5 years old) suddenly had a seizure while on the playground, which lasted 2-3 long minutes.  He was unresponsive for a long time and was taken to a different private hospital and was admitted. They found a chest infection and tonsillitis and he was admitted for treatment, and they decided to do a COVID-19 test.  The results take five days, so we should have them tomorrow.  Several days later, when he was ready for discharge, he started vomiting, so is still in the hospital.

Yesterday we had TEN babies from the El Roi baby home go and see nurse Hannah with high fever and coughing.  Our children’s campuses have been on lockdown for two weeks now and any staff presenting with a fever in the AM (all staff are monitored daily) were sent to quarantine out of an abundance of caution. And yet, here we are with ten babies sick in one house.  Could it be?

Kitchen preparations for Easter breakfast.
Last night at midnight I was called by Anthony to tell me that Roderick (one year old) couldn’t breath and after being given oxygen and then nebulized, they were rushing him to the same private hospital Simeon is in.  I could hear him in the background gasping for air and it sounded like an adult saying “Help me! Help me!”  When they arrived at the hospital the doctor said it sounded like he had a chest infection and he was admitted. He will get a chest x-ray today. 

And then there was the day this week that a senior staff member presented with acute abdominal pain, possible appendicitis, and was rushed to a third private hospital for care.  On a prompting from the Lord, we sent her to see an OBGYN, who found a 4” x 4” ovarian cyst that had two twists in the fallopian tube and did emergency surgery.  I simply don’t know what would have happened to her if she had gone to a government hospital for care at this time.

Ovarian cyst removed this week.
If you are like me, living during this time of fear and uncertainty, you likely wondered how COVID-19 might be involved in or impact any or all of the cases above, and the truth is, we just don’t know, but I think about it a lot. We pray for protection over our children and staff daily, but the truth is there is a monster outside our gate who wants to come in, and he is here to kill and destroy.

Tomorrow is Easter and the timing is perfect.  We will focus our eyes on the resurrected Christ, knowing that He is our protector, He is El Rofi (the God who heals) and He is El Roi (the God who sees). Please join us for our live Easter service at 9:30AM EST on the Heart for Africa facebook page – I know you will be blessed. 
Today's craft at Kid's Club.
If you would like to give a very special Easter gift to a loved one, please consider making a donation to help us with our mounting hospital bills.  You would be giving the gift of life, and isn’t that exactly what Jesus did for us?

Live from Eswatini … He is risen indeed!


Saturday, April 4, 2020

#sharehope with an "essential" person

These are difficult days.  As we sit in the relative safety of the mountain top in Africa, we can’t help but feel helpless watching the news, knowing that our friends and family are struggling. Ian and I are “fixers”, and we can’t fix this global pandemic, so we have been asking the Lord to show us what we can do, and we got an answer.  About two weeks ago I really felt the Lord telling me to be intentional about encouraging others on a daily basis through social media.  So, I started posting daily videos on my Facebook page and Instagram pages that would hopefully bring a smile to my friends and families faces.  Below is a short video that I posted this week of baby Treasure and I doing a video selfie. 

On Thursday I had a video call with of our US team and asked how we at Heart for Africa could serve as encouragers to the world.   We obviously don’t have volunteers traveling to Eswatini, we can’t have meetings and fundraising events, and those things are what the US team does on a day to day basis.  Heart for Africa’s focus is to bring HOPE to the Kingdom of Eswatini in the areas of Hunger, Orphans, Poverty and Education, but now we must expand our efforts to bring HOPE to the world. 

So, here is one of the ideas that the team came up with.  What if we could provide a way to share hope with one another through Khutsala Artisans product?  They quickly created a special page with all of our HOPE products and we are asking you to consider ordering one of those products and send it to a front line “essential” worker who is working at a hospital, pharmacy, grocery store or any other essential position.  We will insert a special card that tells that special person that the gift is from YOU.  For as little as $10 you could bring a smile to someone’s face and let them know that you are thinking about them.  I will start by sending this HOPE bracelet to my cousin Carelle McKellan who is a Public Health Nurse in Canada and she is dealing with 400+ COVID-19 patients in the Fraser Health system. Carelle, we are sending love, prayers and thanks to you and all you are doing.  Stay safe!  

Please note that our Khutsala warehouse is in Michigan and product will be shipped from there, but we have limited quantities and we are not able to ship more product from Eswatini as Khutsala Artisans have all been sent home and airlines are not flying any non-essential product.  The good news is that if we sell a lot of product during this time, there will be work for our Artisans when they are able to come back to work. 

Some of you might be wondering how Spencer and Chloe are doing and I wanted to give you an update. Spencer is working in a consulting firm in Chicago and can do so from the safety of his apartment.  We are thankful that Jane and her puppy “Swazi” are nearby and they can spend lots of time together.  Chloe is finishing her last year at Brock University, but just started a job on Monday making COVID-19 testing kits!!!  Can you believe it?  She does her school work during the day then works from 4PM to 11:30PM at a biotech company called Norgen Biotek.  Two nights ago her team made 22,000 kits and they posted an hilarious video to celebrate. You can see it below.   We are so very proud of our two children and miss them so much.

Spencer working at home

Please join me in shopping, post a photo of yourself with your own Khutsala product and use our #sharehope hashtag to help spread the word.

Live from Eswatini … sharing hope.