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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Do you believe in coincidence?


Welcome home Princess.
This week we picked up a baby from the hospital who had been there for a month.   Today is her FIRST birthday, but her first 365 days have not been good.  She weighed 4.86 KG (10.7 pounds) when we got her two days ago.  Stop and think about that for a minute.

Happy 1st Birthday Princess.  Welili and Helen had to hold her up, but she got her first cake!
In addition, she is HIV positive, has Tuberculosis, can't sit or crawl and was in the hospital for severe malnutrition.  Her mother is 19-years old and also has a 3-year old who lives with the Grandmother.  The young mother couldn’t care for the baby and begged the Doctor/nurses/social workers to find someone who would take her baby (and take some of her problems away).

Social Welfare did their investigation, court orders were signed and we were called to pick up the child.  Her name is Princess.

When we went to pick the baby up “coincidentally” Anthony Mutua (a Project Canaan Supervisor who is currently studying nursing in Mbabane) was Interning at that very hospital and met us at the front door. He was able to help with language, care instruction and details that the nurses wanted us to know upon discharge.

As we left the hospital we passed an old man and woman sitting outside the ambulance entrance area. He was in a broken wheelchair and she was sitting on the ground.  Princess’ mom was walking out with us and she greeted the couple as we walked by.  “Coincidentally”, they were her very own Grandparents, and they live in Sigceneni , the community right next to Project Canaan.  In fact, they are Baby Princess’ Great Grandparents!  We discovered that they had been sitting outside for the past 24 hours, hoping that someone would give them a ride home or money to take public transportation.  The temperature dropped to 10C (50F) the night before and this couple sat through it, hoping for a good Samaritan to come by and help. The man is 90-years old and his young wife is 67-years old.

I have masked their faces to maintain their privacy (sometimes my blog is posted in the national newspaper here). The Grandfather was trying to show me the tube coming out of his stomach when I was trying to take the family photo.

My little car was full with 3 adults, one baby and $900 of children’s clothes that I had just purchased with Sharla and Scott Miller so we were not in a position to drive them home, but there is no way we could leave them there shivering.

“Coincidently” at that very moment a van pulled up beside us and it had a sign that said Good Samaritan 911 on the side.  I immediately asked the driver what Good Samaritan 911 was and he said it was a private ambulance service that had just started.  I asked him how much it would cost to take this man in the wheelchair and his wife to Sigceneni and he told me R450 ($37 US).  SOLD!  I pulled out my Compassion Purse, the Scotts handed me some money and between the two we hired the private ambulance to take this poor couple home.


An hour later the ambulance driver called me to say that they had been delivered safe and sound.

Every Saturday I have a list of things for Anthony to do when he comes home from Nursing School for the weekend. Most of is work in the community surrounding Project Canaan.  Today Anthony was to take Alyssa Yount and her mom Debbie out for a homestead visit. Anthony asked one of our workers to choose a family since he would not be home until Saturday.  I then asked him to go and check on the old couple after he did that homestead visit and take them some food.  As I am writing this blog I got a call from Chris Cheek (who went with Anthony and the ladies).  Guess what?  “Coincidentally” the homestead that was chosen by another worker is the homestead of the Grandparents, and it is the homestead where Baby Princess’ older sister lives with their Grandmother.  

Back to Baby Princess.  Unfortunately, when we go her home we discovered she had a fever of 41C (105.7F), she was severely dehydrated and she had pneumonia.  “Coincidently” we have a Pediatric nurse (Camille Vincent) here volunteering for 7 weeks and she was able to move in to action and put an IV in the tiny baby and start antibiotics and re-hydration.  Camille saved us an emergency drive back to the hospital and perhaps even saved Princess’ life.


Every day we see miracles here, and the “coincidences” are too many to write about.  But today I thought I would share just one small story of what I believe is not coincidence, but the mighty hand of God.

Live from Swaziland … I believe in God-incidences, not coincidences.

Janine

PS – Did I mention that when I asked Chris Cheek to go with Anthony to visit the Grandfather and Mother in Sigceneni today I sent her the photo of the couple so that she would know who she was looking for. Chris texted me immediately to say that she had actually MET that old couple in 2013 when she first came to Swaziland, and then she sent me this photo of her and the couple from 2013.  The hand of God.

Chris and Princess' Great Grandparents in 2013.

 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby River is home (after 7 surgery’s and 3 colostomies)!! The whole story.



Thank you Zodwa for spending a month in the hospital with River!
On March 3, 2015 a woman gave birth to a baby boy, put him in a plastic bag and dumped him on the side of a river.  We don’t know how long the newborn was there, but it was long enough for river crabs to eat through the bag and through his tender skin to make a huge hole in his bottom.  The wound looked as if rats had burrowed a hole in his tiny body.

Eventually a passerby heard the cries of the child and called the police. The police took the baby to the hospital were a surgeon quickly attended to the wound and did a “double barrel” colostomy (surgery #1) to help the wound heal without infection.

A week or so later we were called to come and pick up the child, now known as “Baby River”.  He came to the El Roi Baby home and under the care of our amazing medical and caregiver team his wound was healed in a few short weeks. He was returned to the hospital to have his colostomy reversed (surgery #2). 

That surgery seemed to go as planned, but then something went terribly wrong. I will do my best to explain to the best of my knowledge and ability (and lack of medical education) what happened in the days and weeks after that.


·      The reversal did not heal and there was a leak in to his abdomen.
·      Emergency surgery was done (surgery #3), his belly opened up and abdomen cleaned.  At that time they attempted to complete the colostomy reversal again.
·      More infection came and another emergency surgery (surgery #4) was done to find the leak, clean the abdomen and put in a new colostomy (colostomy #2) to reduce infection and help with the healing.
·      Immediately following that surgery we decided to move the baby by ambulance to a private hospital in Manzini.
·      Baby’s overall health continued to fail and within a couple of days his oxygen levels dropped to 40%, the infection had spread to his bloodstream (sepsis) and early one morning he crashed.
·      The Doctors sprung in to action, did CPR and intubated him (put him on a ventilator to breath for him) as his lungs had fluid around them and he couldn’t breathe.
·      Abdominal stitches were removed to allow his intestines and stomach to come out so that the pressure was taken off his lungs (not counted as a surgery) and fluid from lungs was removed with a syringe.


·      The next day surgery #5 took place and the surgeon found two perforations in his bowel, which is why stool was leaking into his abdomen for five days.
·      During that surgery the perforations were fixed and a new ostomony (#3 on the other side of his abdomen) was created. His intestines, stomach and liver were left on the outside his body and they remained there for 2-3 days (sorry, I just couldn’t post that photo)
·      Surgery #6 the surgeon put the organs back in to his abdomen, but didn’t close him up.
·      Surgery #7 the surgeon put all of his organs back in and closed him up.
·      Once he was able to breathe ventilator removed as he was breathing on his own and he was moved to the ward.
·      TWO SHORT WEEKS later … he came home. That was today.

All the nurses wanted to get a photo with the little miracle baby.

Thank you Dr. Kunene, Dr. Okello and Brooke Sleeper for ALL you have done.
In summary,  River is now 3.5 months old. He has been dumped by his mother, eaten by crabs, has had 7 surgeries, 3 colostomies and is a miracle for the whole world to see.

What’s next?

He gets lots of TLC for the next few months.  At that point the #3 ostomy will be reversed (surgery #8).  A few months after that, the #2 colostomy will also be reversed (surgery #9).

Thank you all for your prayers, your love, your emails and your financial support.  We will have the final “bill” on Monday, but we know that we owe many, many thousands of US dollars to the hospital and staff who saved this little ones life.  We are incredibly thankful that there is such a hospital in Swaziland and people who work hand in hand with to do what some days seems impossible.  We ALL saw the hand of God on this baby’s life, over and over again.  There is no question that El Rofi saved this child and we look forward to watching him grow.

Today, I am asking if you can help us pay his hospital bill.  If you can give, please do. 


Live from Swaziland … so much to be thankful for.

Janine

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Planes, trains and elephants.



It’s been 10 years since our family has gone away on a vacation together and just had fun – no work, no meetings, just exploring, spending time together, eating, and of course, napping.

We enjoyed all types of food from Taiwanese pot stickers to Vietnamese coffee (made with raw whipped egg yolk) to Balut (fertilized duck embryo – only Spencer tried that one) to drinks made with fresh cinnamon/cardamon & anise.  The food highlight was definitely Thai cooking school on the Island of Koh Samui.

Spencer's "Balut"

Vietnamese coffee shop
Thai cooking school
Our travel included many modes of transportation including planes, High Speed trains, ric shaws, tuk tuks, river boats, scooters, taxis and even elephants.

Ric shaws in Vietnam
Tuk Tuks in Thailand.

Even on a trip of high adventure, there is no doubt that the best part was just having our whole family together again, on the same continent, in the same city and sleeping under the same roof. We laughed so hard that we almost, well, you know. We told and re-told family favorite stories (at the bequest of our children) and we all shared stories on how God has directed our lives in so many miraculous ways.

At the end of each day we sat and looked at whatever view was in front of us and were in awe of the beauty of the world that our creator made.  I love that our children notice sunsets and rainbows, the color of the ocean and the simple beauty in a flower.  

Bangkok, Thailand
Koh Samui, Thailand
Friday night we made it home to Swaziland where we will continue our family time for the next 9 days.  This blog is written in honor of my family and to give thanks for the time that we have had together.

Live from Swaziland … I am a very happy and thankful mama.

Janine

Saturday, June 6, 2015

I felt so guilty for so long.

The sunset from our room tonight in Koh Samui, Thailand.

When I first stepped foot on the African continent my life was changed forever.    I distinctly remember thinking that I could not possibly pile presents under the Christmas tree as I had in past years for our young children (who didn’t “need” anything to start with).  The thought of hanging hundreds of lights, decorating the house with expensive bobbles and piling our family table up with delicious and extravagant treats, when millions of children in Africa had NO food at all, just made me sick to my stomach.

I couldn't face Christmas 2003 in my big, fancy home and instead our family went to a beach resort so I could escape (not that it was in any way cost saving!) and think about how I would change “Christmas-future” for the Maxwell family.

After spending too much money on that trip to the beach I decided that I could never take a vacation again, while millions of children in Africa had no food.  I am not saying that my thinking was sound, fair to the rest of the family or that I was trying to be a Super-Christian, I just felt guilty. 

Most of you know the story from my first book, “It’s Not Okay With Me”, but we made some major lifestyle changes that included everything from eating frozen pizza rather than ordering in, eliminating fancy vacations, getting rid of the nice cars and eventually, moved to Africa.

Ian and I built a lovely home here in Swaziland, with funds that we had saved from our business days.  It’s technically the property of Heart for Africa, but we live in it as the Directors of the project.  I give thanks for the safety, beauty and comfort of this home every day, but there are days that I feel guilty for living in such a lovely place when I have visited homes where the roofs have gaping holes and the mud walls are collapsing.

Holidays are another source of guilt for me, and that leads me to this week’s blog.  During our business days our family used to go on great holidays to the beach, or exotic destinations, but we stopped doing that in 2003 after “Africa” happened to me.  I could not justify spending money for four of us to fly somewhere and just have fun.  But then time passed, life continued, our family lives on three different continents and I realized we are missing out on family time, memory making and renewal of spirit.

So I am trying an experiment.  Last week Spencer, Ian and I flew to Taiwan to attend Chloe’s High School graduation.  After a few whirlwind days in Taiwan we headed to Vietnam to visit the place where our friend/hero/favorite Uncle, Captain Jerry Coffee, was a POW for 7-years.  I am so glad we made the decision to visit this incredibly important place and learn more about the history of this part of the world.  Chloe even spotted Jerry’s photo on the wall in what is left of the prison – a photo that Jerry himself had never seen.  The visit had a significant impact on all of us.

Ric shaw ride in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Last night we started a weekend of celebration for Spencer’s 21st birthday in Bangkok, Thailand.  We were stunned by the view at “Skybar” on a rooftop made famous by the movie Hangover II (I debated telling you that part).  The view was breathtaking, spectacular and left us all speechless (which doesn’t happen much in our family!). Today we flew to the Island of Koh Samui in the southern part of Thailand.  

Bangkok, Thailand.
The sun has already set as I sit and write this blog, and it is 9PM in Thailand, 3PM in Swaziland and 9AM in Georgia.  We are watching “Anna and the King” as we continue to learn about, and embrace Thai history and culture.  I have no words to explain how awesome this time is together.

We are having fun as a family.  We are learning and growing and laughing and eating and enjoying each other’s company.  In a week we will all be back in Swaziland for 10 days, and then Spencer heads back to Georgia and Chloe goes to Canada.  Everyone is back to “real life”.  We don’t know if and when we will have an opportunity to be together again, but today we give thanks. 

I might still feel pangs of guilt (I cannot say that I don’t), but I am giving thanks in a VERY BIG WAY for the ability to enjoy this time as a family and for His provision.

Live from Thailand … I have a good life.

Janine

Saturday, May 30, 2015

“What is a Good Life?” by Chloe Maxwell


Morrison Academy Graduate 2015
Yesterday Chloe graduated from High School at the Morrison Academy in Taichung, Taiwan.  Ian, Spencer and I were thrilled to be able to attend her graduation, and in honor of our amazing daughter I am posting, with permission, this paper that she wrote for her “Senior Topics” class this year.  The question asked was “What is a Good Life?” 

Here was her answer to that question:

“Life is full of memories that stack up as you wait in anticipation for the next one you will make. The question is, when you look back on those memories, will they add up to the good life you might have hoped for? We spend so much time, money and energy trying to reach our next goal, get the next best thing, continue advancing through life, but I fear that one day we will look back with regret. If we take a moment to stop and look back, look at where we are spending our time, then we might have a chance at living “the good life.”

One day during my Freshman year, I was at “Cirque” practice and my “coach” wanted us to take a break from what we were doing, spread out on stage, and lay down. The Seniors knew exactly what they were doing and seemed relieved, but I, clueless, and just followed along. Our coach told us to shut our eyes and to try to visualize what he was saying. We were told to imagine ourselves in the most relaxing place we could think of. Immediately, I was at the beach. He continued to walk us through this; what the place looked like, the colors, the temperature, etc. Of course, the bell rang and we had to wake up from our happy places and go to our next class, but when I think back to my “happy place” it really does line up with what I would love in reality. If I could live on the beach for the rest of my life in the sunshine, with no worries and unlimited funds, wouldn’t that be the life, the “good life”?   We could, “Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too, imagine all the people, living life in peace…” as John Lennon says in his song Imagine. The beach, no worries and living life in peace?  All of those things sounds like a pretty good life to many, but not to everyone.

I look back on my life, all 18-years of it, and so far I would say I’ve had a pretty great life. Living on three different continents, riding elephants cowboy-style in Kenya, white-water rafting down the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe, climbing the ancient castles in Portugal, watching my mom being made a Chief in Malawi, these are all memories I will have forever and might be some of the coolest things I get to do in my lifetime, but without these memories and experiences I would still say I have the good life.

Growing up in a stable family that loves me and is healthy would certainly go on my list for the “Good Life” bucket list, but it’s the small things that make it onto that list, that are the most valuable. Sitting at the counter talking to my mom as she makes dinner with Norah Jones playing in the background, family dinners when we used to talk around the table and would laugh to the point of falling out of our chairs, walking through our garden in Canada watching the plants grow while stealing a couple of raspberries, strawberries and peas in a pod along the way.

Those are the things that make life good, but there are other memories that aren’t as sweet. 

I had a friend whose life that was the polar opposite to the fairy tail childhood that I experienced. After growing up neglected, abused and raped she was forced into prostitution to become a “magician,” as she used to call herself. Five children later, at the age of 24, she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS as well as multiple drug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB). That was when I met her, the clock started and I only had two-years to build a relationship with Gcebile.

We were complete strangers from totally different backgrounds, yet we were still able to build a relationship that would bring us close enough that we would called each other sister. This girl that had had the hardest life possible, was still full of life and joy. We would laugh together, and she would tease me about boys always putting in her piece of advice saying, “I’m watching you, don’t be off doing anything because you will look back and not be happy about it.” The last time I saw her I sat on the edge of her bed as she was tucked in, barely skin and bones. Though I couldn’t admit it to myself, I knew this would probably be the last time I would get to see Gcebile, and I was heart broken.

That memory of giving her my favorite ring that she loved so much, seeing the joy in her eyes that she was finally home at Project Canaan, and hearing that last “I love you so much my sister, I’m watching you” will stay with my forever. When receiving that phone call that Gcebile had passed away, after building that close of a relationship, many might wonder what was the point? When writing plans for the “Good Life” you might wish for, this would certainly not be on most people’s lists, but it was on mine and I would never change that. I got two years with one of the most incredible, strongest people I would ever meet. Why would I change that for a life with no worries on the beach? “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

Gcebile’s perseverance and her character sparked hope in thousands of people praying for her around the world. Not hope as in a want or a wish, but a certainty, that God is good and his plans are best. Even the memories like this make the good life good, just in a different way than you might expect.

The perspective that I have has been developed over the years from the new cultures I have been immersed in, the diverse people I’ve gotten to build relationships with, and the incredible experiences I have had the opportunity to experience. I wouldn’t change any of it, but what does that mean for me? When I’m 80-years old and look back on my life, what will make me think that I lived a good life?

I started to think about this the past year a bit, and it made me pause and seriously think. I don’t want to be constantly waiting for the next event in my life or for the next destination travel date to come up. Instead, I want to pay attention to the present and live my life for today.

Referring back to the song Imagine with John Lennon, I could, “imagine all the people, living for today…” but maybe a better choice would be heed the words of the Apostle Paul, who said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)  Paul had a purpose-filled life, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.

Reminding myself to pay attention to every moment and act as if it is my last, as opposed to just seeing the big picture and racing through. Focusing my priorities on other people instead of myself, as John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Being able to look back on my life and know that what I did have a purpose, that would be the only way I could say I lived a good life, the good life.

I have been shaped and molded, and will continue to be as the years go on, but I hope that as I do I will be able to live like Paul talks about living in 1 Corinthians. “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13).

I realize this sounds insane, and not at all like the life someone sane would want to live. It might even sounds fake as my faith is still so small, and it seems like a stretch to want to have a faith to live like this, but it is true. To live a life of total humility sounds like total freedom to me, and what Paul is talking about in this chapter is having humility and grace in our broken world.

The last thing that would contribute to the good life I might dream of, would be people. What would life be like if you didn’t have great friends to share it or go through it with? I want to make friends that will become my life-long friends. People that know me completely that I can be myself around that are non-judgmental and that I know I could trust. You want people who stay constant in your life that you can invest in each others lives and can encourage each other and be there for each other when things get tough. Not only that though, you want people in your life that you can laugh with and enjoy life with. This aspect of my good life equation would be pretty essential, but might be tougher than I realize. Life may just be a million memories, crammed together, to some people, but I will make my life, the good life.”   

Thank you Chloe for writing this.  We are so incredibly proud of you and we are so thankful that that you are such a big part of our "good life".



Live from Taiwan…I am incredibly thankful for HIS plans.

Janine

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baby “River” in emergency surgery, twice this week.



Some of you have heard about Baby River from my blog http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2015/03/river-baby-suicidal-mom-tuberculosis-of.html.  River was born on March 2nd, and was immediately put in a plastic bag and left on the side of the river to die.  Fortunately he was found, but not before his backside was badly eaten by river crabs.

After having a double-colostomy he came to live at the El Roi Baby Home and healed in record time!  Several weeks later he went back to the hospital to have his colostomy reversed, and the surgery happened without a glitch last week. A few days later, things took a turn for the worst.  There was a breakdown at the surgical site and River had a belly filled with infection.   The surgeon called to tell us that he needed to open up the baby again and try to close up the intestines.

Here is a challenge for us.  We are the legal guardians of the baby, and so we wanted to move the child to a private hospital in Manzini (complete with ICU and Pediatrician), but the baby came to us through a different hospital, and the surgeon responsible for that child wanted to do his very best to help make the child well again.  I totally get that, but what if we could do “better” than that by moving him? 

We had a team (Brooke, Ken and Shongwe) in the car driving to the hospital to transfer the baby to the private hospital for the corrective surgery, but what if the baby died in the car under our care (against the advice of the attending surgeon/hospital)?    We were in a tricky spot.

Thankfully, everyone involved truly does have the best interest of the child at heart. Brooke spoke directly with the Superintendent of the hospital attending to River and he assured us that River was getting good care and asked that we leave him there for the “clean up” surgery.  Our team turned the around, crossed our fingers and prayed for the surgical team.

Three days later (yesterday) I got a call from the surgeon saying that the baby was not well at all.  He needed to do a third abdominal surgery because puss was oozing out of the baby’s belly - the surgical site had broken down, again.  He would clean up the wound, but also give the baby a new colostomy so that the internal wounds would have a better chance at healing.

I “just happen” to have the best surgeon in Swaziland on “speed dial” and I had him “on call” this whole week in case we could transfer the baby.  I called him right away and while he agreed that the child should be moved to the private hospital and agreed that a new colostomy must be done right away, but in order to save the baby’s life the third surgery needed to be done before transferring the baby to the private hospital.  I wanted to pull my hair out.

There was nothing we could do, but pray, and ask El Rofi (the God who heals), to be with the surgeon and guide his hands.  Three hours later, I was called by the surgeon to say that the surgery went well, and he agreed to release the baby to us to be taken to the private hospital.

At first I planned on making the two-hour drive (each way) with Brooke, but the thought of having a 2-hour post-Operation baby in the back seat freaked me out. What if … ?  Getting an ambulance and nurse is not an easy feat in Swaziland, but we had people at two hospitals (and me) working on it.  Within an hour we literally had THREE ambulance options (ranging from $350US to free) and the child was on his way to the private hospital 75 minutes after surgery.  The hospital staff in BOTH hospitals worked together beautifully and I was thrilled to see his little face when I arrived in Manzini.

River is in ICU now and we should hear from a Doctor today on his care plan, but for now, they are keeping him hydrated and treating for infection and we have an Auntie with him 24/7. 

We are thankful for all who are praying for this little guy. We are thankful for all the nurses, doctors and Social workers in both hospitals who helped keep River alive.  He is very strong and even 3-hours out of surgery was holding my finger tightly and talking up a storm.  The cost to have him in the private hospital is close to $500 US per day.  He has a large incision across his belly and has a new colostomy that will need to be reversed (again) in the future. If you can help us with his hospital costs we would be very thankful.

To donate in the US please click here.

To donate in Canada please click here.

Live from Swaziland … it has been an eventful week.

Janine

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Would you give this swing to your child?

 
Home made swing - complete with chain, wire and old notebook.  Photo credit: Chris Cheek


In the next few weeks we have a container being shipped from the US to Swaziland, thanks to our friends and partners at UPS.  It’s always great to be able to send equipment and items that are either unavailable or very expensive here, not to mention a few treats that we all miss from home.

On the “wish list” we asked for more swings so that we can have swings for the kids up at the Emseni Campus.  We have had a donation of $1,000 to buy swings so we were debating whether we should spend the whole amount on getting two really sturdy swings that will last forever, or get some small, cheaper ones that might not last as long, but we could have more of them. 

Then there is the question of wood, vs. plastic, vs metal?  Our team in the US diligently researched the options and sent links to me so that I could go and look at them for our ongoing discussion of which swings to by our big kids.

And then this happened.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of going out to visit one of our neighbors with our volunteer team from North Point Community church. When we arrived at the homestead the first thing we saw was the skin of a cow draped over a tree branch, drying to be made in to rope to harness their oxen.  Below the drying skin was a long chain with an old notebook hanging on it.  I was asked what that was all about, but I had no idea.

Cow hide hanging by the swing.  Photo credit:  Chris Cheek
We went on to meet with a family that was made up of an old Grandfather and Grandmother living with 14 Grandchildren (age 2-18), all of them sleeping in one room (the family kitchen).  They had no food, no jobs and all were suffering from poverty.  We sat and talked with them, brought them clothing, shoes, a soccer ball and a box of Manna Pack (food).  We purchased all the mats that the Grandmother had made, we prayed with them and then we said our goodbyes.

Later that night Chris Cheek messaged me and said that she had shown the photo of the long chain and notebook to several of the Aunties and asked them what the strange object was for?  They all laughed and said, “Gogo, that’s a swing!”  All of them knew that if you didn’t have a fancy swing made of wood, plastic or metal, that you just take an old notebook and hang it over a chain, and voila!  A swing!

Old note book that serves as the seat on the swing.
I struggle with this.  I want to give our Swazi children the best of what we are able to give, but part of me knows that they are missing out on the small things in life, like making your own swing out of a notebook. Lots of people do it in North America with old tires for swings, and have had summers of fun swinging on them.

I am not convinced that a notebook on a chain would be “fun” (at least not for my backside!), but I know that the old Grandfather at that homestead was doing the best he could with what he has.  And the kids were thankful.

So I have an idea.  In 2016 I would like to have the Kufundza center start making good/sturdy wooden swings, complete with chain, that can be purchased by our volunteers/donors for us to take to our church communities and to our homestead visits.  It will be a small way we can bless each family (in addition to leaving clothing, shoes and food). 

In the meantime, if you would like to help us build our playground for the big kids at the Emseni Campus, please go to this link today and do a little shopping:


Everything purchased will be shipped in early June, arriving in Swaziland in July.

I feel like there were several lessons in this story for me personally.  I will be chewing on this in the days and weeks to come.  I hope you will be too.

Rose swinging at the Kindergarten. Photo credit: Ken VanWinkle
Caleb on the swings at Kindergarten.  Photo credit: Ken VanWinkle.
Live from Swaziland … giving thanks for everything He has given us.

Janine