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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Burned baby to receive life-saving surgery - for free!

Baby Shirley - photo taken November 21, 2014.

In 2011 we attended the Healthcare Business Summit in Las Vegas as guests of MedAssets.  That year the Dr. Norman Borlaug Humanitarian of the Year Award was given to Elissa Montanti, Founder of the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF).  GMRF aids children who are missing or have lost the use of limbs or eyes, or have been severely burned, or have been injured due to war, natural disaster or illness. I sat in awe of Elissa’s courage, her tenacity and her commitment to helping the desperate and suffering children of the world.  Elissa says, “What higher mission is there than aiding innocent, victimized children?”  Preach it sister!  I never imagined at that moment that I would ever be calling Elissa to help with a child who I knew personally (we had no babies at Project Canaan at that time).

Two weeks ago I was on a plane from China to Taiwan and was praying about how we were to help Baby Shirley.  Baby Shirley's mother dumped her in a pit latrine at birth and then dumped fire in on top of her to make sure she died.  She has burns so severe to her face that she can’t breathe well and gets infections easily, putting her very life at risk (see blog  I asked the Lord what we were to do?  The private (and expensive) hospital didn’t want to discharge Baby Shirley until we had a surgical hospital lined up to do life saving surgery.  Nothing could be done in Swaziland and she would need to go to abroad for even more expensive help. 

Just then, Elissa’s sweet face appeared in my mind and I KNEW that we had a solution.

During airport layovers I crafted an email to Elissa and John Bardis (CEO of MedAssets) to tell them the story of Baby Shirley.  When I landed in Taiwan I hit “send” and within an hour of me sending that email I received the most beautiful email from Elissa telling me that she had all the doctors to help!  Once I had a passport for the baby, she would send me a letter that would enable us to get a Medical Visa for her to enter the US.  GMRF would cover all costs AND they will provide any follow up surgery needed until Baby Shirley is 21-years old!!  She would, of course, live in Swaziland, but travel to the US for follow up surgery as needed. 

WOW!  Can you imagine!?

Simple.  Easy. Done.  Ha!

The big money, top Surgeons, excellent hospitals, “US side”, part was “done”, but not the Swazi side.  Swaziland has recently been labeled a “human trafficking hub” and there is a lot of suspicion around why people what to take Swazi children out of the country, especially to America.  I fully understand the concerns and support the initiative to eliminate any trafficking of any kind.

The battle was intense (and for many reasons I cannot share those details), but Jesus always wins.  On my 51st birthday, after three weeks of team effort while I was in China followed by 20 solid hours of Ian and I in government offices on my first week back, we were able to get a Swazi passport for our beautiful 8-week old baby girl. 

I want to give a huge shout out to the senior staff at the Ministry of Home Affairs, who moved mountains to help us help this little child.  Also the Consular at the US Embassy was not only sympathetic, but also pushed the Visa application to the top and personally completed it and had Baby Shirley cleared for travel.

Photo taken November 21st at El Roi Baby Home after returning from hospital for pneumonia.

Photo taken October 24th, when she first came to us.
I have witnessed a lot of miracles in my life, especially living here in Swaziland, but this experience is right up near the top of the impossible, becoming possible, through the ultimate authority – the Creator of the Universe.

Baby Shirley is back home with us now and is being kept in isolation to keep her healthy until she leaves for the US.  She struggles for every breath and has great difficulty swallowing and keeping formula down.  Baby Shirley will be there for approximately four months as they do reconstructive maxio-facial surgery first and then deal with digit amputations and other burn issues. And then she will come home to us to be loved and cared for by her new family.

Thank you Jesus for providing hope for this child through Elissa and her team at GMRF.  Thank you Jesus for John Bardis and our MedAssets family for their support of GMRF and Heart for Africa.  Lord, as always, I stand in awe of YOUR ways.

Live from Swaziland … I am praying for healing for our little one.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

She bought 100 angel Christmas tree ornaments to put on her own Christmas tree?

I was recently chatting with a woman named Kirsten Ortiz who I learned has 81 Heart for Africa Christmas ornament angels on her Christmas tree, and nothing else other than lights.  I asked her why she would do that, and this was her response (shared with permission).  You will want to read to the end.

“In November of 2011, I stood in the unfinished kitchen of what was to be the El Roi Baby Home, imagining what this place was to become.  I imagined what it would look like with children in those rooms.  And at that moment, God tied my heart to Heart for Africa and to Project Canaan.  I came home from that trip changed and would never go back to being the same person.

Anyone who knows me, knows that among the things I love most in this world, family, children and Christmas are at the top of my list.  I have always loved Christmas and decorated early…like seriously early.  I usually decorate in October, but have been known to start in September.  November would just be unheard of!  But things were different after my trip to Africa when I saw how little people in other parts of the world had and a struggle in my heart began.  How could I buy bows, lights, stockings, and other Christmas knick-knacks when there were babies on the other side of the world who needed that money to pay for their formula and diapers?  I could choose to spend less on me, and more on them.  Christmas of 2011 was painful, as it often is for someone who has been on a mission trip when they try to process all that they saw and learned.

By Christmas of 2012, El Roi had opened and 22 precious babies called it home.  I had been praying for these babies by name with my daughter.  That year I was overwhelmed when my sweet six year-old daughter decided firmly that she did not want to receive presents, but instead wanted people to donate money to the baby home.  Our 2012 family Christmas picture reflected the changes taking place in our hearts.

I traveled back to Africa in the spring of 2013 and the struggle I wrestled with grew stronger.  How do I balance my life here in America with the great needs there in Africa?  I can’t forget the things I have seen and I can’t un-know the tragedies and horrors I have learned about.  God will hold me responsible for what I do with this knowledge.  We had already simplified our lives in many ways so that we could help others simply live.  So, when Heart for Africa announced in September of 2013 that the Swazis working in the Khutsala Artisans Shop had made angel Christmas ornaments, it was clear to me what I should do.  Since I simply love Christmas and God had placed on my heart the children of Project Canaan (which by the time Christmas rolled around was now 47 precious lives), I needed to buy one angel ornament to represent each child.  I placed an order for 60 ornaments figuring it allowed for additional babies and was beyond excited.  Then only days after I ordered the ornaments, my heart broke as I read that Solomon had passed away.  When the ornaments arrived, I decided that I would add a nametag for each child.  That year my mother graciously let me put my angels on her tree and I knew I couldn’t leave Solomon out so I put his angel ornament at the top of the tree.  My daughter amazed me again by asking for donations to the new toddler home instead of presents.

Well, the babies kept coming in 2014, and our family has continued to pray for each child who calls Project Canaan home….all 81 of them.  As we near Christmas of 2014, I have already decorated of course.  I have fewer decorations than I did years ago, and the ones I have are more meaningful to me.  But the decorations most meaningful are my angel ornaments.  They bring me joy in the spirit of Christmas, and I also feel blessed to know that the money spent on them served a double purpose in providing income for hard working Swazis and funds for the baby home.  We ordered another 40 ornaments this year, and I’m hoping that will be enough!  Our tree is covered in reminders of the precious lives that God has seen and protected there in Swaziland.  As I stand and look at our tree with these reminders, I close my eyes and remember standing in the baby home, empty, yet God had plans to fill it.  And my eyes fill with tears and my heart fills with joy as I prepare to go and meet these children in a few months.  I am just in awe of the God we serve and His perfect plans for all these little lives and the lives of all who are connected to them.  I am grateful for the obedience of His servants who have supported Heart for Africa and these children.  And I am in love with a Savior who died for me and all the other sinners in this world.  This is Christmas to me.”

I have been inspired by Kirsten and her family and have decided to put a Christmas angel ornament on our Christmas tree on Project Canaan, with each with a child’s name on it, just as the Ortiz family has done.

If you would like to purchase an angel ornament for a specific child, please put that child’s name in the Comment section when you shop.  Each year we will add angels as more children come to us.  When the children grow up and leave Project Canaan, they will be able to take their angel with them.  You are also welcome to send that child a Christmas card in the mail, which will also go in their treasure box.  The address is:  Heart for Africa, PO Box 433, Lobamba, Swaziland H107.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to start shopping and also order a few ornaments for friends and family?

Order yours on line by clicking here.

Live from South Africa … I am almost home from my 2.5 week journey to Asia!


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Short and sweet – Baby Shirley needs surgery urgently

I spent the last five days in Yiwu, China with Jamie and Cameron Klee.  Our goal?  To set up a reliable supply chain for the “pieces and parts” that go in to the jewelry that the Khutsala Artisans women make to help us fund the El Roi home for abandoned babies.  Our method?  Scour the 20,000+ stall indoor “market” with a local Chinese/Taiwanese company, whom I have known for years, purchase pieces by the thousands, and try to endure through the pollution, smoke, human waste and black mold.  Headaches and sinus congestion aside, it was an awesome week.

Jamie and Cameron Klee with our hostess, Angel. 

Pick a chain, any chain ... then pick your coating. 
Now, on to critical business.  If you don’t know Baby Shirley’s story, please take a moment and go back to my blog from October 25th and get the full story -

Shirley - 6 weeks after being in a government hospital.
While I was in China I got a message from our amazing team in Swaziland saying that Baby Shirley was really struggling to breathe and her weight was going down.  A feeding tube would be easy (thanks to Brooke and Maria), but the breathing was a problem. She was admitted to the local private hospital (who has had three of our babies with a seriously infections viral infection for the past many weeks!) and we learned that she had a sinus infection (caused by her nasal malformation from the burn) that got in to her bloodstream (sepsis).  It is a miracle that she was taken in and treated the day that she was. 

The next part of the message to me read, “The bad news is that her nasal malformation is more severe and more urgent than we realized. The ENT who saw her said that she needs to see a maxillofacial specialist asap. Unfortunately, there are none in Swaziland, so she'd have to go to South Africa.  This will be another BIG cost.”
This sweet little finger needs to be amputated
Taking a child out of Swaziland, even for emergency health care, is no easy feat.  With the proactive commitment of the Swaziland and South Africa governments to reduce/eliminate Child Sex Trafficking it takes an act of God to be able to move a child across an international border.  In addition, we would need to send a driver and an Auntie for an extended stay in SA to care for this baby while she gets care – possibly months?

I don’t know what God has planned for this little one, but if HE wants her to have surgery, then HE will need to act. I do believe that if she were still in prison with her mother, that she would not survive very long.  I pray that she has a long, healthy and productive life with us!

That is all the news I have today, but I ask for your prayers for this little one, for the people who are caring for her and clear direction for us on how we are to proceed.

If you would like to contribute to Baby Shirley’s care (currently $300 US/day at the private hospital) we welcome your gift.

In the US click here.

In Canada click here.

Live from Taiwan … I am taking the weekend off with Chloe!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

I really don't like when people lie to me.

If you haven’t read last week’s blog please go do so now, otherwise this one won’t make any sense.

Last Friday afternoon I was called to the Women’s Prison to pick up a 6-week old baby who had been thrown in a pit latrine at birth by her mother, and then 7 hours later the mother went back to that toilet and heaped fire on top of the baby to make sure she was dead.  An uncle heard the cries of the baby, shoveled dirt on top and saved the baby’s life.  Mother, baby and sister were all taken to a local government hospital for care and 6-weeks later they were all discharged into the prison system while the mother was charged with attempted murder.  That is when we were called to enter the story, and asked to pick up the 6-week old, whom we call Shirley.

Late last Friday afternoon I was called to meet at the Prison (with four men from the Egg Farmer of Canada Association who happened to be with me) to see how we could help.  The El Roi Baby Home has two main guidelines when accepting children; first the baby should be under the age of 12-months, and second do not accept, nor are we set up for mentally/physically disabled children.  I can say 58% of all our children have come to us under the age of 6-months and 31% between 6-12 months.  We have made exceptions to that rule for 11% of our children, based on special circumstances and special requests.  I can also say that 10% of our children have some type of chronic condition (mostly Cerebral Palsy related) that requires some special care and regular Physio Therapy.  An additional 7% are HIV positive, but we care for them and love them all the same.

When we were asked to take Baby Shirley (the 6-month old) we were also asked if we would take Baby Rebecca (16-months old). I told the Social Welfare Officer that we only take children under the age of 12-months so we could help with one, but not likely the other. We would discuss in person.

It wasn’t until we got to the Commandant’s office at the prison that I saw that Shirley had been lit on fire and was severely burned on her face, arms and legs. In fact her big toe had burned off in the fire.  I knew that if we said “yes” to this baby that we would have a long and bumpy (and expensive road ahead), but we had to say yes.  After assessing Shirley I moved on to Rebecca and asked about her condition.

The young mother told me that she was born perfectly healthy and that at 6-months she had had a seizure, which left her with some paralysis, but that she was getting much better after her time in the hospital and had regained a lot of movement. Otherwise she was a perfectly normal baby.  After pleas from the Social Workers to keep the girls together, combined with the poor men sitting in the room trying to hold it together, I agreed to take both babies.

Let’s fast forward to Tuesday morning when Dr. Moira Lemmer came out to assess the new babies, check out sick babies etc. Moira’s assessment of Shirley was that she would need surgery within the next 6-weeks to fix the nasal passage that had melted in to her face. The baby is dehydrated because she has trouble eating and breathing at the same time.  If she got a cold or chest infection of any kind she would likely not live because she would not be able to breath.  In addition she has an index finger than needs amputation and we don’t know what damage was done internally.

Then she examined Rebecca and after a time we learned that Rebecca was born severely mentally disabled and physically disabled, and the reason for her severe malnutrition was because she can’t eat or drink anything without vomiting.  This is likely due to Cerebral Palsy, which doesn’t allow the swallowing mechanism to work properly, causing the child to starve to death.  She is unable to sit or lie on her tummy, and Dr. Moira doubts that she ever did. It was explained that this child would need 24/7 care and really it was a full time job for one person. 

This really bothered me. The mother lied to me, to the Prison Commandant and to Social Welfare Officer who was trying to help, with the hope that I would take both babies away and “off her chest”. The mother is in a very good/clean prison that provides medical care, food, counseling etc and she has all day long to care for her own child.   Rebecca is a sweet little girl who smiles, is loving and she brings me and others around her joy.  But here is the problem.  We don’t have the specialization, the space or the funding to have one-to-one care for this child.  If we had one Auntie caring just for her, then there are three other babies that we would have to say “no” to because our 4 babies to 1 Auntie ratio would need adjusting.  To be honest, my greater fear was that because she was dehydrated and not able to keep food down, that she would die at El Roi, and I don’t think my heart could take another baby death at this time, not to mention the effect that would have on ALL the Aunties, staff and other children.  The impact of the death of a child is immeasurable.

I didn’t sleep well that night because I know that what Rebecca needs is love, pure one on one love and care.  She needs her mother.  I was at the airport starting my 32- hour journey to Taiwan and China and called the Social Worker to discuss the situation.  At that point she mentioned that she had found out that the mother of the children has TWO parents who might be willing to take the older child.  THAT would be great. 

Fast forward again to Friday, October 30th.  The Social Worker picked up the mother from the prison and brought her out to pick up Baby Rebecca from Project Canaan.  Yes, she is going back to the prison with the mother for now, but the prison will provide safety, food and care.  Ian gathered a box of Feed My Starving Children Manna Pack with the hope that this child could get some high protein food that would stay in her tummy.

While they were all at the El Roi Baby Home, Baby Shirley went in to distress and was unable to breathe through her melted nose and so Helen had to rush her to the private hospital in town, right in front of the mother and the Social Welfare Officer.   At the same time, we got a call from another Social Welfare Officer saying that there was a 9-month old baby in great danger because her mother was dying in front of her and we had to send someone to Mbabane to pick up that baby, who is now, again, #81.  Her name is Bella (given to her by her mother).

I know that my decision to have Rebecca’s mother care for her wasn’t popular with some, but sometimes people in leadership have to make hard decisions.  Ian and I both believe with our whole hearts that Baby Rebecca is in the very best place for her right now.  If there was no one to care for her and she was to be left alone on a mud floor to die, we would absolutely have kept her, but she has a mother, and Grandparents, who, with some help from us, can provide for this sweet little girl, and we will follow up on her progress.

In the meantime, please pray for babies Robert and Simon who SHOULD be discharged on Monday after three weeks in hospital, for Baby Thuli who is in ICU with what Robert and Simon had and for Baby Shirley who needs surgery asap.

Proud of my lead Actress Chloe!
Live from Taiwan … I am LOVING my time with Chloe and am a proud mama.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Do we have to say "no" to more babies?

Late Thursday afternoon when Ian and I had just arrived back from Johannesburg (Ian had flown in from a trip to the US) I got a call from a Social Welfare Officer in Mbabane.  She said she had a baby who needed our help and asked if could I drive there right away? Thankfully Kenny and Amber were already in Mbabane and Shongwe was in Manzini so the three of them were able to go and pick up baby #77, who we are calling Moses.

We are told that Moses’ mother died in childbirth (as did his twin) and right after the funeral the father ran away and hasn’t been seen. Moses was left in the hands of his 16-year old sister, who dropped out of school to care for him.  There were three other younger siblings as well and the children were suffering terribly. In fact, Moses was a year old (born on September 15, 2013) and had never tasted milk or formula – he was living on maize flour since birth. 

When Moses arrived at El Roi he was given a bath, which is the first thing that is done to get the child clean and give him a quick “look over”.  Imagine our surprise to find that this child has 14 fingers and 16 toes!  None of us had ever seen anything like that before, but alas, we love him just the same and will get council on if and how surgery might be needed.

The next day Ian and I were in town picking up the Egg Farmers of Canada, who flew in to discuss a new partnership with them to help us provide healthy egg protein to the 3,500 Orphans and Vulnerable Children that we feed each through our church partners each week.  During lunch I got a call from a new Social Welfare Officer (in a region we have not worked in before) and she begged me for help.

An hour later I found myself in the Commandant’s office at the Women’s Prison in Swaziland with the four men from the Egg Farmers of Canada.  We heard a story that required true grit to not break down sobbing in the office.

A 21-year old girl sat in front of us holding two babies.  The girl was in prison for the attempted murder of her 6-week old baby girl.  At 11PM on September 11th, 2014 she  gave birth in an outdoor pit latrine/toilet to the baby and went back to bed. At 5AM she went back to see if the baby was dead and heard that the baby was still alive so she went and got a bucket of fire and threw it in on the baby to make sure the baby died.  Her Uncle heard the cries of the newborn and ran to the rescue. When he looked deep down in to the pile of stinking human waste he saw the newborn baby on fire. He quickly grabbed a shovel and threw dirt in on top of the baby to douse the fire. 

Both mother and baby went to the local hospital for five weeks and the child is left with significant scarring on her face, arms and legs. 

The second child is 16-months old and had a seizure at the age of 6-months leaving her with some paralysis on the left side. But ironically, she ended up in the hospital with her burned sister and received some Physiotherapy and now has much more use of her arm and leg.  The child is severely malnourished and the orange color of her hair is only one indicator of that malnutrition. Both babies came home with us on Friday, wrapped up in the loving arms of our Canadian friends (Peter, Tim, Roger and Scott).  The mother will stay in prison awaiting her trial.  We are calling the small baby Shirley, and the older one Rebecca.

Peter, Tim, Roger and Scott from the Egg Farmers of Canada.
All week we had been in conversations about another baby boy whose mother had been sent to Juvenile Remand by her father, and then found out she was pregnant.  The child was born inside the Juvenile Prison and then handed out the front door to the Grandfather. He did not want, or couldn't care for a newborn so gave the baby to the alleged father from Mozambique.  The father had no means to care for the baby (baby is being treated for HIV because the mother is HIV positive) and we were asked to take the one-month old baby before he was dumped.   We were unable to get to that baby on Friday, so I promised to go back to Manzini on Saturday morning and pick up the baby and the paperwork.

Saturday morning I woke up completely overwhelmed.  Ian and I sat drinking our coffee and realized that today we would receive Baby #80 and that we were MORE THAN FULL at the baby home.  There is still room at the toddler home, but the baby home would have 45 babies in it (built for 20, but then double stacked cribs allowed for 40).  We talked about having to say “no” to the next baby.  Not to mention we do not have the monthly funding for the last 7 babies who have come to us. 

I wasn’t sure how I would be able to say “no”, knowing that we might be the only hope that the next baby would have for survival.  I left the house very disturbed and unsettled.

At 8AM I left to pick up Tim and Peter to head to town to get Baby #80.  We NEVER get babies on the weekend because the government offices are closed, so this was a first and an exception to the rule.  As I drove off the farm I received a phone call from the head of the Child Protection Department of the Police.  He said the police had a 1-month old baby boy and the mother of the baby was insane. She was trying to harm the baby and would often leave the baby alone for days.  Could I please go and meet the police and take the baby while they take the mother to the National Psychiatric Hospital?  It as as if God was laughing at me and saying, "I am the only One who gets to say "no".

I said “yes”.

First we went and picked up the baby we were initially asked to get, whom we are calling Souza, born September 11, 2014. After doing what needed to be done we drove to meet the police at the Psychiatric Hospital.

I can’t even begin to describe what the inside of that hospital with 300 patients is like. Lots of screaming, crying, singing, howling and even barking. There was one women who saw Tim and I and starting singing, clapping and calling, “Mommy!  Daddy!”  Then she proceeded to take off all her clothes and dance for us inside her secured room.  (A blog for another day).

Baby Quinton (named Queentin by his mother). Born September 16, 2014.
The Police will follow up with the Social Welfare Department, but as of today we are responsible for 81 little lives.  I have no idea how we will pay for them each month, but I believe that the Lord will provide.  I have no idea how we will get medical care for Baby Moses’ hands and feet or for the surgery for Baby Shirley so that she can properly breathe through her burned nose and see correctly out of her left eye, but Jesus knows. And today, overwhelmed and frankly, tired, I leave it at the cross.

We have 38 children in the Toddler home (Daniel and Eve moved up today).  There are 28 living in the baby home and we have moved all 15 “tiny” babies (under 6-months) up to Kuthula Place.    It’s a full and busy place, and we give thanks.

Live from Swaziland … I had to nap before writing this.


If you can help on a monthly basis, please do so.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

$55,000 USD literally blew away.

 I did not grow up on a farm, but I always felt great empathy when I would watch the news and see farms wiped out because of not enough water, or too much water, or too many insects or even a hail or wind storm. I saw the despair in the eyes of the farmers, but it was not until this week that I felt that first hand.

On Thursday night as I was letting the dogs out of their pen I looked up at the sky, pulled out my phone and took a photo.  It was black and luminous, and while I LOVE a good storm (especially sitting on my patio in Africa!), the sky didn’t tell me that a friendly storm was on its way.  I quickly finished up outside and only minutes after I got inside did the rain start coming in horizontally, across a 15 ft verandah/patio, to our glass doors.  Seconds later our heavy, teak patio furniture was flying across the deck and on to the ground, only to be plummeted with large marble sized hail.  

Looks like Canada!
All six dogs were freaking out and desperate to get inside, and all ran past me when I opened the door to let the little ones in.  I am a journalism major so am usually quite quick to take photos of things happening, but also Ian is in the US this week so I needed to take photos because he might not believe what I was seeing.

The storm lasted about 30 minutes and then the rain subsided.  Amazingly the electricity was still on and our phones worked.  I sent a message out to all the supervisors or building representatives on the farm to see if everyone was okay.  It seemed there were no human injuries so I called William to meet up with him to assess the situation on the farm. By the time I reached the bottom of our mountain I met Stanley (our Farm Manager) and the Farm Supervisors. They all shook their heads at me and said, “Janine, the crops are all gone”. 

Now, when they said “gone” I thought they meant “destroyed/broken/unrepairable”, but they really mean “GONE”, as in the “blew away”.  The sun had gone down and another storm was forming quickly so William hopped on the back of my ATV and we went up to check the baby and toddler home.  There were six broken windows in the baby home and three broken ones in the infirmary, where we had four sick babies at the time the storm hit. Thankfully, no one was injured, even though the whole infirmary is covered in broken glass. Thank you Jesus for your protection.

Torrential rains started, I drove William back down to the farm then headed back up to our house.  I was absolutely drenched when I finally got inside and I even had 2 inches of water INSIDE my rubber boots.  I was a sight for sore eyes … but I don’t think the dogs noticed.

Early the next morning I drove around the farm to get a more thorough report to send to Ian, and our Board of Directors, who are having their Annual Board meeting this weekend. The dairy and cows were unharmed, in fact we even got a new calf the day of the storm.  But the fields were bare, as if they had never been planted.  We have been doing rotational crop farming so that we always have crops being planted and always have vegetables being harvested.  This allows us to provide year-round employment for 100+ people just through the agriculture program on Project Canaan. 

Friday was a dark day, and when the workers arrived at work, 70 of them were told that we didn’t have any work for them because there was nothing to pick.  Up until Thursday night we had been picking literally tons of green beans every week and we were just ready to start harvesting our mini-vegetables (zucchini and squash), but now there was nothing to pick, and the “pickers” were sent home.    Each of those 70 workers is responsible for at least 13 dependents at home, that means a minimum of 910 people may/will not have food until we have crops ready to pick again in 4-6 weeks.

On Thursday night, in 30 minutes, $55,000 USD blew away on Project Canaan, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.  On Friday the workers who kept their jobs started pulling up all the drip irrigation tape so that the land can be ploughed and we can start planting again on Monday.  The cost just to replant all of the fields is more than $11,000 USD, but the bigger loss is the profit that we would have generated by selling the vegetables – with 100% of the profit that goes DIRECTLY back into buying baby diapers, baby formula, providing care for our 76 abandoned babies. 

Our goal is to be self-sustainable by the year 2020 so that we can provide all that is needed to run Project Canaan and the Children’s home, without outside help.  We want to be able to provide for ourselves, but this week it seems that we took two steps forward, and three steps back.

Now, that being said, I am a firm believer that ONLY God can make it rain and only God can make hail.  For that matter only God can make a green bean or a mini-zucchini.  He has provided all that we have to this point and each and every time we have been in need, HE HAS provided, often even before we knew we were in need. He is El Shaddai, and we give thanks.

In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in the Message bible says, "Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you to who belong to Christ Jesus to live."  Sheesh!

I won't lie and say that I do that all the time, but when I know that ONLY HE could create the weather that took away that income generation both for Project Canaan and for our workers, I choose to give thanks for how HE will provide.  I don't know how He will do it, but I know that He will.

Africa ain't for sissies.

Live from Swaziland … I will praise Him through this storm.


PS – If you are able to help us with rebuilding our crops and helping us provide for our children we would greatly appreciate any assistance you can give.   

In the US please give here. 

In Canada please go to:  

Please put "Farm Emergency Fund" in the comment section.  

Thank you.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Some days even I think we are crazy – 76 babies and counting.

Every now and then I find myself sitting on the couch at the end of a long day with Ian and I am completely overwhelmed at what we have been called to do.  That happened this week when we got our 5th set of twins.  Yes, 13% of all our children are twins (two fraternal, two boys, one girls). 

We now have 76 children, under the age of 3.5 years, living at Project Canaan and we get a baby on average every 12.5 days.  Fifteen of our children are under the age of 6-months (!), seven are HIV positive and many are underweight and/or developmentally delayed (often those two things are directly linked).

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog about a set of twins that we found out in the rural community.  You can read the details at  On Friday, October 3rd I picked up Lori Marschall and Janice Johnson at the airport and then headed straight to Siteki to pick up a baby (Eliza) from the hospital.  As it turned out we were asked to take two babies that day and after the paper work was done and babies fed we headed back to Project Canaan.

On our way home I got a call from the mother of the twins in the blog noted above.  She was crying because she and the baby girl had been discharged and she still didn’t have any money to pay to get out or take a bus home. Somehow the hospital didn’t have record of the $32 US bill I had paid the week before and now she owed another $8.70 US for her and her baby’s 5-day stay at the hospital.  We stopped in, cleaned up the confusion and the bill and gave her bus fare to get her home.  We promised to bring the male twin to her on Monday with the police, as they were the ones who took the baby in the first place.

We had a team of people here this past week so I tasked Helen and Shongwe to go to the police station and get an officer to go with them to return the child to the mother.   Two hours later they arrived back at my house with both twins (!).  What?  Yes, they found the mother lying on the ground outside and the baby alone inside.  She was no longer breast-feeding and there was no formula so the baby was only being given water.  She was almost down to her birth weight (4.1 lbs) at 3-weeks old and it was clear that she was dehydrated.  The 21-year old mother also has a 4-year old and a 5-year old (who was recently raped by her Uncle) and did not want these babies at all. The alleged father of the babies has turned off his phone and has not been in contact with the mother since she first told him she was pregnant.

Photo of "Robert" being returned to his mother. 
I am told there were several phone calls between the police and the Social Welfare officer and the mother and finally Helen and Shongwe were asked by the family and the government to take the children – a report, paperwork and a court order would follow right behind.

Bernice and Robert arrived at Project Canaan.
Some of you are wondering why we would do this?  Why wouldn't we try to help the mother instead of taking the babies?  And those are valid questions. There have been cases where we did invite the mother and children to live at the Kibbutz so that they could stay together.  This situation presented itself differently and sometimes we just have to go with our “gut” and rely on the wisdom and background knowledge that the officers involved are aware of, even if it is not shared with us. 

We have named the babies Bernice and Robert. They were born on September 15th, which is the same birth day as my Mom (Bernice Willis) and that is also Ian's birthday.  Robert Smucker was with us on the day we first found the babies so we have named the boy Robert in honor of our dear friend, and brother Robert Smucker.  

That night I was overwhelmed.    So many little mouths to feed (150+ bottles per day alone), so many diapers to change (400+ every day), so many children to provide for and love for life.  There are so many moving parts here, so many operational challenges, staffing challenges and funding challenges.

Ian is landing in the US today for the Annual Heart for Africa Board meeting, so I have a couple of weeks alone here on the farm. This morning in my quiet time I watched a video that was released by the Egg Farmers of Canada yesterday about Heart for Africa and their partnership with us.  It was so great to see the faces of our children, but also all the faces of the Swazi’s who are here caring for the babies and volunteers who come and help.  As I watched I saw the farm workers, the dairy workers and the Khutsala Artisans and knew that they are all a direct part of helping us with this daunting task. Then there are the Egg Farmers of Canada themselves who are coming to help, and the US Bank and UPS people who were just here helping, and there are more people on their way. These are God's children and He is their Father - He must send the people and we pray that those who are called will say "yes". 
Jan Bechtel - Long term volunteer feeding Bernice.
We are not in this alone and we are not called to do it on our own.  It takes a village to raise a child, and these children are being raised by a global village.  There are days that even I think we are crazy, but maybe “crazy” is a good thing under the circumstances?

Thank you for your prayers and support. We do need financial support for the last SIX children who have come to us in the past month so if you would consider becoming a monthly donor we would very much appreciate your direct assistance.   

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Live from Swaziland … this is a busy place.