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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Anthony and Celestine are getting married today!

 

It was April 2003 when I met Anthony on my first trip to Kenya.  He was 18 years old and had recently moved to the Mully Children’s Family (MCF) home in Ndalani to attend school. That trip to Kenya changed my life forever, and it is also when I knew that I was being called into full time ministry IN AFRICA.

 

A couple of years later we started the Heart for Africa ministry, and a couple of years after that we bought the 2,500-acre piece of African bush in Eswatini, that we now call “Project Canaan”. Anthony was one of five MCF beneficiaries who was invited down from Kenya to start the project. The work was all manual back then and all very heavy lifting, but Anthony and his best buddy, Denis, worked tirelessly to clear the land, pick rocks from the field, plant the first maize, pray for rain, and then harvest the first crop. Without their hard work and tenacity in the early years, Project Canaan would not look like it does today.

 

After our family moved to Eswatini Anthony approached us and shared two life dreams that were in his heart. His first desire was to marry the love of his life, Celestine Mutinda, who was also a student at MCF, but his second desire had to come first.  Anthony wanted to become a Registered nurse so that he could help suffering people, but also be able to provide for Celestine. He had his eye on this beautiful, strong and determined young woman for many years as he watched her from afar and took note of her focus on succeeding in life. We fully supported his plans, and cheered him on through the highs and lows of the next five years.

 


While Anthony was in University in Eswatini, Celestine was at school in Nairobi, getting her Bachelor Degree in Education, then she was teaching high school in Nairobi.  In 2017 Anthony was ready to bring Celestine to Eswatini so that they could finally spend time together, and really get to know each other. Celestine first volunteered in the greenhouse and learned about our Aquaponics projects. Later she was hired as a teacher at the Project Canaan Academy and is loved by her students and fellow staff. 

 

As the young couple’s friendship grew, and their relationship developed, conversations between families started to happen and plans for their union were initiated. Then Covid-19 hit the world. Suddenly all travel plans abruptly stopped and all wedding plans were crushed. Something had to be done. While Covid-19 restrictions would not allow them to travel back to Kenya for a “proper family wedding”, they decided to have a different kind of “family wedding” here on Project Canaan, and their new plans moved in to action.

 

 

The wedding party was chosen, complete with the cutest flower girls, junior bridesmaids and groomsmen in the country (yes I am biased). Dresses, and shoes were sought out around the country, dance and wedding rehearsals began. Yesterday the girls all had their fingernails polished, cakes were decorated, dresses prepared and last night the rehearsal party took place at the lodge.  The groomsmen slept at The Lodge and the Bridesmaids slept at the Moringa Guest house.  The excitement around Project Canaan is palpable as we prepare to see this young couple join together in marriage today.
 


Today at 9:30AM EST, our big family, with a few VIP guests, will participate in the wedding nuptials of Anthony Mutua Musyoka and Celestine Minoo Mutinda. The Best man is lifelong friend, Denis, Denis’ wife, Annah (also from MCF), and both of Denis’ daughters are also in the wedding party! It is the fulfillment of Anthony’s dreams, and the very first wedding at the Imphilo (which means “Life”) Amphitheatre on Project Canaan. While Covid-19 restricts us from hosting a celebratory meal with outside guests, we will have our own celebration with the children and staff at our dining hall called The Oasis. It will be the perfect end to a perfect day.

 

 

We WILL NOT let this global pandemic steal our joy, and we hope you are not allowing it to steal yours either.

 

You are welcome to join the wedding live by going to the Heart for Africa Facebook page, and watching the live feed starting at 9:30 AM EST. The wedding march will take up the first 30 minutes of the occasion, and will just be too much fun with many of our children participating.  There will be performances in siSwati, Kamba (native language to Anthony and Celestine) and short speeches by only a few people.  Please join us if you can, but more importantly, please join us in praying for this young couple who have chosen to spend their lives serving “the least of these” as missionaries in a foreign land. 

 

Live from Eswatini …"Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9

 

Janine

Saturday, September 12, 2020

My third book is (finally) written

Swaziland 2005
Swaziland 2005

Yesterday was the 19th anniversary of 9-11, and the day on which the trajectory of my life – and that of my family – was forever changed.

 

In my first book, It’s Not Okay With Me, I chronicled how the events of 9-11 sent me on a journey to Africa, seeking God’s purpose for my life. In my second book, Is It Okay With You, I shared the origins of Project Canaan and our work in what was then called Swaziland.

 


It has been many years since I wrote my second book, and honestly, I felt that this weekly blog was “Book #3,” with each week another chapter in the story of HOPE. But last year during the 10th Anniversary celebrations of Project Canaan, I realized that I should write a proper account of all that has happened in the first 10+ years of Project Canaan. It needed to include the history, the development, the trials and tribulations along with the miracles and wonders.

 


While this season of Covid-19 has been complicated and filled with uncertainty, it has also been a time of blessing here at Project Canaan (read this blog for  a real glimpse). It has also given me time to reflect and write the book that tells the story of Project Canaan. While it is not written as a manual, I have attempted to give detail, helpful information and key learnings for anyone being called to serve in a ministry like Heart for Africa in Eswatini. I hope there are a few of you who are interested in reading it J

.

The manuscript is complete and in the hands of my editor. Fingers crossed. God willing, we hope to publish it before Christmas.

 

Now we are working on a title and a front cover image.  This is where YOU come in. I am looking for book cover photo suggestions.  I want a photo that was taken specifically ON Project Canaan that says HOPE. Do you have a great photo of a child or children, or farm workers that shows what hope looks like? If we choose your photo (and you give us permission to use it) you will get the very first copy of the book, hot off the press, and a gift pack from Khutsala Artisans.

 

This photo of Phiwa and her peeps says HOPE to me.

 

There are two ways to submit your photos. You can simply email your photos to info@heartforafrica.org or if you have a Shutterfly account, you can upload them directly to our account at https://projectcanaan2020.shutterfly.com.  Please keep your submissions to five photos or less.

 

Now, for a little teaser as to how Chapter One of the new book begins…

 

“It was a very dark night, and she was afraid. Labor started earlier than she had expected, but she knew she was in labor, because her first child arrived when she was only 15 years old, and she had not yet been able to push away the fear and pain. She made her way to the pit latrine (outdoor toilet) that the family had used for many years and sat down on the old platform. The baby started to come, and she pushed. This second child wasn’t any easier than the first, but at least she knew what to expect. She pushed again, until finally the baby’s head erupted from her tender teenage private area as the baby slipped on through into the pile of human waste below.

 

She was not quite sure how it happened, but the placenta followed and there was silence. She tried to see her newborn, but there was no end to the darkness that she peered into, as if the baby had been swallowed by the blackness itself. She cleaned herself up as best she could and made her way back to her stick and mud house.

 

She lay on her bed and forced herself to go back to sleep, but sleep would not come. Five hours later, the sun was starting to peek up above the mountain range in the distance and she crept back to the pit latrine to make sure the baby was dead, but to her shock, she heard a cry. Oh no, she thought, ‘This can’t be happening? The baby can’t possibly still be alive after being there for five hours! Surely the newborn would have suffocated by now.’

 

Other family members were starting to stir, so she quickly ran and got a shovel and scooped up some hot coals from the fire that would soon heat up the leftover mealie meal (cooked maize) from the night before to make soft porridge for her 2-year-old daughter and herself if there was enough to scrape from the side of the pot. She stumbled back to the pit latrine and threw the hot coals down onto the tiny newborn whose cries were getting louder. Suddenly she heard footsteps coming toward her and she panicked. Who could it be? Would they hear the baby’s cries? Would the baby be dead before the person opened the door? Would she be able to lie her way out of this scene?

 

Suddenly the door swung open and her uncle was looking directly into her soul. What had she done? What was that noise coming from the depth of human waste? He held his breath and looked down into the toilet as she fell to the ground and sobbed. What HAD she done?”

 

I know, it’s tough to read, but it’s real, and it’s what we deal with on a regular basis here in Eswatini. But fear not, the story ends with great joy, healing and redemption, and HOPE for both mother and baby.

 

This photo of Gift and Shirley says HOPE to me.

If you have never read the first two books, you can buy them at www.khutsala.com or on amazon.com.  If you would like to listen to the audio version of It’s Not Okay With Me to hear how this all began 19 years ago on September 11th, 2001, you can download a free copy of it here.  Feel free to share the free audio book with friends and family to prepare them for the next book in the trilogy. 

 

Please send your photos ASAP as we will start working on the cover soon.

 

Live from Eswatini … it’s Ian’s birthday weekend!

 

Janine

 

 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

It's not all fun and games


Earlier this year when the world was spinning properly, planes were flying and events were happening, Ian and I were invited to Texas to speak at a gathering of 15,000+ Keller Williams agents.  It was one of the craziest experiences of my life as I had never been in one room with so many people in my life, and to have the honor to share our story with them was simply mind-blowing. It seems like YEARS ago that we were on those planes, and so much has changed in those few months.


When Ian and I travel we are always looking for fun, new and fresh ideas to bring back to Project Canaan. In a recent blog I shared with you a patio roof that we loved and will use a similar idea on our new dining hall. While in Texas we stumbled upon a giant Scrabble game board, that was attached to the wall and had magnetic letter pieces. What a brilliant idea!  I quickly googled it and found the very same unit available at Restoration Hardware for only $1,800 US. YIKES! There had to be another way.

 

Our friends, Carol and Barry Hickman, were planning to come to Project Canaan for a month this summer. Carol is the Vice-Chairperson of the Heart for Africa Canadian Board of Directors and Barry is her jack-of-all-trades, and partner in crime . Barry is always looking for a project that he can take on while here and he loves working with the guys in the Kufundza Carpentry center, so I thought this might be the perfect challenge!  And he agreed.

 


Fast forward a few months, planes are grounded, borders are closed, and Carol, Barry and team are stuck in Canada, sad, but still wanting to help us in Eswatini. Then, out of nowhere an opportunity arose. Hannah Gaddis, our Hunger Initiative 2020 Manager in the US, has been searching for partners in Canada and US to provide dried food so that we can continue to feed our children in the communities who really need more help than ever. Canadian Board member, Cheri Peters, suggested that we reach out to the Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, and within weeks we were accepted a food partner.  Better yet, they said they could ship us a 40ft container of food in August/September.  

That put a series of events in motion that ended up with Barry and the Kerr family MAKING the 5-foot square Scrabble board (complete with blackboard score area) from scratch! I’m not kidding.  This could easily be added to the top of the dried food on the container. Score! The team painstakingly painted each board square and letter piece by hand, then added the magnetic connections so that the game can be played on the wall.  They had to work through endless unexpected problems/challenges that goes with any DIY project. I laughed when I heard that and said that it made it a very authentic Swazi experience .They even added Heart for Africa logos in each corner for an extra special touch, which were made by a couple in Kamloops, BC. 


While Barry was busy doing that, Carol, Cheri and their friends were collecting gently used clothes from all over Canada (and Carol was doing her own famous bargain-hunter shopping game).  The Hickman house and garage became a drop off center for literally 2,000+ pounds of clothing for our children, soccer gear (thanks to my cousin Carelle McKellan and her family!!), and bras from as far away as Prince Edward Island, Ottawa and Manitoba. Truth be told, it was actually Barry who did the driving all over the province picking up donations, and even WASHING some of the children’s clothes.  A special thank you to Once Upon a Child, a children's clothing store that donated 20 large bags of children's clothes!


Then, the piece-de-resistance was an unexpected gift of a $50,000 (if it were new) computerized feeding system for our dairy cows, which will reduce the cost we spend on dairy meal, while maximizing the milk production.  This was a timely donation as it could be shipped for “free” in this container and it was exactly what we need as a part of our dairy expansion. Thank you Koopman family for the part you played in this gem!

 


If you don’t believe in a God who cares about the details, please go back and re-read this blog.  I simply can’t make this up. We started by needing food to feed starving children, and He provided.  The bonus gift (in my eyes) was a giant Scrabble board that will be fun in our new O2 building. Then 2,000 POUNDS of clothes are added, and then the Lord tops it all off with dairy equipment.  HOW DOES HE DO ALL THIS?  



Thank you Carol, Barry and your team of friends and family for giving 1,000+ hours of your time. You are such a great example of people using the extra (or unusual) time you have due to Covid-19 to do something great!  Thank you Cheri for being instrumental in getting this food, and for helping pack it. We are so very thankful for our Canadian friends who worked tirelessly over the past few months to make this container be filled with life-saving food, along with some fun and games!



Live from Eswatini … enjoying a long weekend (Independence Day).

Janine

 

PS - don't forget to check out www.khutsala.com this weekend and do some shopping!