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Saturday, August 29, 2015

We now have 100 children under the age of five.

It is hard to fathom that Baby #100 arrived this week. My heart rejoices that another little life was saved, only to break again as I think back through the past 3 ½ years of pain and suffering felt by these innocent and helpless babies.   We have received many babies who have been dumped in pit latrines (outdoor toilets), left on the side of a river, lit on fire by their parents or are the result of incest and/or rape.  In fact, at least 30 of our children have been born to mothers who were ages 12-15 years old.  It is heart breaking and there are many days that I want to stick my head in the sand and pretend that this is not happening, but it is.

On March 1, 2012 we received our first baby. His name is Joshua. His mother was mentally unstable and unable to care for him and his father was unknown. After trying to abort the baby several times without success, Joshua’s mother decided to contact Social Welfare in order to try and find a solution for her unborn child. Joshua arrived at the baby home when he was just a few weeks old, covered in syphilis and sick with other medical issues.  Today he is healthy and strong.

His own mother named him Joshua after hearing that he would be living at Project Canaan.  She knew the biblical story of Joshua entering the “promised land” of Canaan and knew that he must have that name since he was the first to arrive.  The Lord told Joshua that Canaan would be a land flowing with milk and honey and true to that, Project Canaan now has 73 cows providing milk and the bees are making honey for us to sell. 

On August 27, 2015 we received our 100th baby.  His name is Sipho, which in English means “Gift” and he truly is a gift to us. Sipho has been living in the nurse’s station at a hospital for the past three weeks after his mother was admitted to the Psychiatric hospital. He arrived to us with pneumonia, anemia and is HIV positive, but he has the biggest smile and laughs quickly and easily.  He is home now and is receiving one-on-one care by highly trained people and two full time nurses.

We have 51 full time staff at the Children’s Campus on Project Canaan.  That includes cooks, cleaners, nurses, Aunties, Uncles and a nightshift for the smaller babies.  All of this happens under the close watch of Helen Muli, who I want to mention by name now.  Helen is love and you can see that in the photos I have attached of her in 2012 and now with Sipho in 2015.  Thank you Helen for your sacrifices, your leadership, your friendship and most of all your commitment to serving our Lord in everything you do.
Now, if you are reading this, I am asking for your help.  I am asking for 100 of you to give $100 for our 100 faces of hope to help us celebrate this milestone in our journey.   For some of you that will be a sacrificial gift and for others it is nothing.  Will you partner with us today, right now?

In the US click on 100 Faces of Hope

In Canada please click on 100 Faces of Hope Canada

I also want to say a big THANK YOU to Beth Blaisdell, our Executive Director at Heart for Africa, US because she is the one who created the “100 Faces of Hope” campaign as a way to help us continue to be able to provide the best care possible for these children.  Beth is tireless in working to get people to sign up monthly to support each child who comes in.  None of us ever want to say “no” to an abandoned baby because we don’t have the funds. Thank you Beth for ALL you do in the US to support everyone in Swaziland.  You carry a big load and we are thankful for your commitment and love.

Live from Swaziland … 100 Faces of Hope.  Wow.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Waiting on baby #100

This week we received a little baby named Lydia.  She was born 3 months premature and weighed only 1.2 KG (2.6 pounds) at birth.  She is the 99th baby to have been placed at the El Roi Baby Home by the Social Welfare department of Swaziland.  

With no money to buy diapers the baby was wrapped in a hand towel with a plastic garbage bag on top.
The routine of picking up a child is much the same.  I sit in the Social Welfare office and hear another heartbreaking story, often about rape, poverty and inevitably hopelessness that lead to the child needing to be placed in an “alternative care facility”.  Reports are written, Court Orders given and the child is handed over.  This week, Lydia’s story was no exception.

Receiving a new baby is a bittersweet experience.  There is great joy at receiving a new life knowing that he/she will be loved, cared for and grow up to know who Jesus is and also be a contributing member of society.  And as soon as that joy starts to penetrate your heart, the absolute sadness of why a baby has been abandoned by his/her parents starts to sink in.

We receive a new child on average every 12.7 days and now we wait expectantly for baby #100.  There is a big part of me that hopes that phone call never comes.  I hope that something changes in this tiny Kingdom, that we love and call home, so that no child is ever abandoned again.  But the reality is that there will likely be baby #100 who comes to live at Project Canaan, within the next 12.7 days. Who will this child be?  Will it be a boy or a girl?  Will he/she be sick or healthy?  What horrific set of circumstances will lead him/her to need a new home?

Like an expectant mother I sit and wait, and hope and pray for the little one who is coming to us in the days or weeks ahead.  I also pray for the day that my phone doesn’t ring to pick up an abandoned baby because social change has happened and hope is restored in Swaziland.

Live from Swaziland … waiting on baby #100.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Does God care about the holes in the bottom of her shoes?

The People Mover
For four years everyone had to walk to work at Project Canaan.  It took some people as short as 2 hours and some as long as 2.5 hours.  When they tried cutting across neighbors properties they were threatened with bush knives, guns and even had threats of death if they trespassed again, and so they walked the long route.

In the winter (May – August) the sun comes up at 6AM and goes down at 5:30PM so the walk to be at work at 7AM and leave at 4PM is mostly done in the dark.   The roads coming to Project Canaan are not safe for women walking alone and not safe to anyone walking in the dark, but still, they walked to and from work because they were employed in a country where there is as high as a 70% unemployment rate.

One day in 2013 a group of women from an organization called WLA within the US Bank came to visit us and they saw the people walking to and from work.  They met a 62-year old Grandmother named Mona Lisa and learned that she not only walked 5-hours each day, but then cared for 8 Grandchildren when she got home. Within a few months these amazing women raised funds for us to buy a big open truck that we call the “People Mover”. 

From 2013 the “People mover” traveled 107 miles per day, making three trips each way to both of our local communities, transporting 280 people to and from work.  It was life-changing providing an extra 5-hours every day for them to help their children with homework, prepare meals and provide protection.

But then it stopped. It broke down.  The harsh roads and heavy loads caused the broken clutch power cylinder, oil slinger and oil seal it has been down for several weeks, while we await one of the parts that is being sent from JAPAN so that it can be fixed.

The people are walking to and from work again and we pray for their safety every day. 

But here is a REALLY cool part of the story.

Last Friday morning one of the Aunties went to Helen and showed her the holes in the bottom of her shoes that were now being worn down during the long walks.  She shared how tired she was when she got home to her seven children after looking after children all day.  Helen looked at her and told her that the 5-hour walk to and from work was a wonderful time for her to be praying for the babies at Project Canaan, praying for all the people who work here and, while she’s at it, pray for a new pair of shoes.

God does care about the hole in your shoes Gcebile.
On the following Monday morning Teri and Morgan McClure arrived at Project Canaan and the first question Teri asked Helen was if she would be able to buy each of the Aunties a new pair of shoes to bless them. They didn’t know the People Mover was not working, they hadn’t seen the holes in that Aunties’ shoes, but she felt prompted to go and buy them all shoes!  

Thank you Teri and Morgan from Gugu and all 51 Caregivers who received shoes.

Khosie and Mcebo with their new shoes.

Helen squealed with delight, as only Helen can do, and she clapped her hands and said, “That is GOD!  It is God who is providing shoes to the Aunties who are caring for His children.” 

Yes, He is our provider, and gives each of us the opportunity to be used by Him, for His glory. 

Thank you Helen for always pointing people to Him.  Thank you Teri, Morgan and ALL the people who bring the perfect gifts at the perfect time.  May the Lord continue to bless you in a mighty way.

Live from Swaziland … praying for protection for our workers and our People Mover to be fixed soon!


Saturday, August 8, 2015

This week: emergency brain surgery on one of our children. (This is not getting any easier)

Grace when she first arrived.

When you have 98 children under the age of 5 there are very few weeks without hospital, clinic or visit to the nurse.  This week was a tough one though when we discovered that our little girl Grace had undiagnosed hydrocephalus and then had a brain bleed when she accidently bumped her head, which quickly lead to emergency surgery to put a shunt in her head to drain the fluid that had built up over a year.

Who is Grace?

Grace came to us when she was 18-months old.  She was a sick baby and her mother couldn't handle a sick baby so she left Grace on the side of the road with a note attached saying,  “ My baby is sick. I am going to see my boyfriend”.  And she left.

Someone found Grace on the road, recognized her and took her to her Grandfather’s house. He in turn sent her to the hospital with an Aunt and by the time they arrived Grace was in a coma.  This poor little girl had meningitis, Tuberculosis and pneumonia.  A week later, she came out of her coma and was blind. 

We have a policy about not accepting disabled children, but we were not told that she was blind or severely disabled when she was placed with us by the Social Welfare department, mainly because they didn’t know either.  That has happened a couple of times and I can only see it as Gods’ way of making sure that the children HE is placing at Project Canaan are accepted, rules or no rules.  It’s as if HE sneaks them past us.  My friend Sandra Stanley was with us when Grace was placed in our care and it was Sandra who gave the child the English name “Grace” because this baby had been so sick and through so much, Sandra said that it was His Grace that would see her through. 

Back to Grace.

She is a sweet baby who really struggled in the first year she was with us.  She was carried everywhere because she couldn’t walk, crawl or even sit and while we believed that she was starting to see something, she is almost completely blind.   She was taken to Physical Therapy religiously every week and was doing her exercises daily to try to build core strength. Clearly her Cerebral Palsy has affected her whole body.

We wondered if she might also suffer with hydrocephalus, but a CT scan two years ago showed that our concerns were unwarranted. 

A wonderful friend and Heart for Africa supporter offered to get Grace a specially made walker (as in a $2,000 US custom-made walker!) and it has been life-changing for Grace. She was first strapped in to it as her core-strength was very poor, but within weeks she was running up and down the toddler home halls in her “car” as they call it.  She was standing at the same height as her brothers and sisters and they could now play and interact with her as they had not been able to do before. It was beautiful to see.

In no time Grace was walking with her walker, but not strapped in. She can walk/run only holding the handles and her strength is building daily. 

Last week she had a random bump on the head. She needed 3 stitches at our clinic, but all in all it was a typical childhood injury.  After a few days it was reported that she was vomiting and her right hand was shaking.  Our volunteer Nurse Practioner from the US (Brooke) immediately took her to town to see our Pediatrician. The Pediatrician immediately sent her to a hospital with a Neurosurgeon.  The Neurosurgeon did a CT scan, which revealed Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that had been building for possibly one year.  The bump on the head caused internal bleeding on an otherwise already compromised situation and within hours of seeing the surgeon, our beautiful little Grace was having emergency brain surgery to have a shunt put in.

I can’t begin to put words to how we all felt and feel about this.  I can’t imagine this happening to my own biological children and how I would feel – I know I would be frantic.  But there is something quite different when this happens to a child that you have been given a God-given and government-given responsibility to care for.   I was sick to my stomach, but reached out to our prayer circle to join with us praying for favor and healing.  

On Tuesday Brooke went to see Grace and took in clothes for her to wear (we did not travel the day before expecting her to be admitted in to the hospital). The hospital had her in an adult diaper and nothing else.  As soon as they started to put her soft clothes on she starting talking fast in siSwati saying, “Oh, they are clothing me!” (SO CUTE!)  Only 5-days later she came back home to us with a draining shunt in place and a joyous welcome by her brothers and sisters (and Aunts and Uncles!).

Thank you Treasure - you are a gift to us all.
Ian and I are problem-solvers so we will work diligently with the team to improve our systems and training, but at the end of the day, the Lord stepped in and saved this little girl’s life, again.  I wonder what He has in store for our beautiful Grace. 

Live from Swaziland … things aren’t always easy here, but El Roi sees it all.


Saturday, August 1, 2015

People bathing in donkey blood, 80,000 witches in Swaziland, and a national food shortage

Reading the newspaper in Swaziland is shocking, heart breaking and disheartening MOST of the time.  Rarely is there a story of good news, good people or hope.

It is rare that a day goes by where there is not a news report of a rape.  Rape is so common in Swaziland that the newspapers really only report the most shocking ones, like children being raped, old Grandmothers being raped or a 60-year old Pastor raping his own Granddaughter for years.  Rape is an epidemic in Swaziland, and it is not the only African country where that is a true statement.

This issue of rape and other Gender Based Violence (GBV) has really got me worked up. I have started taking photos every time I see an article in the paper about the topic and have set up meeting with people in high levels of government, the Royal family and other NGO’s dealing with this issue.  I have nothing to report on it yet, but please pray for me as I journey down a path to help girls and women in Swaziland. It’s not okay with me that this is happening.

But not all the news is about rape, we also have a Pastor here who is teaching his congregants to eat grass, live snakes and even drink petrol in order to gain power and strength.  Last week there was a family killing a donkey and covering themselves with the blood of the donkey so that they could be cleansed.  Then there is the “normal” news including a message from the Deputy Prime Ministers office announcing that the country is facing a “Food Shortage Disaster”.

I don’t have a point to this blog really, other than to ask for prayer for our beloved Swaziland.  There is a lot of darkness and evil here, as there is everywhere in the world.  Sin is sin. Darkness is darkness.  But sometimes articles that claims there are 80,000 witches/warlocks in Swaziland (with a population of just under one million people) can put ones hair up on end.

Thank you for loyally reading this blog and for the love and support shown to us each and every week.  This would all be too much with your prayers and commitment to be alongside us.

Live from Swaziland … just keepin’ it real.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Does God really care about the little stuff? (Oh, and two newborn babies arrived today)

On Thursday Ian and I drove a group of people back to Johannesburg to start their 15 – 30 hour journeys home.  We decided to drop them off, run some errands in Joburg, go out for dinner on a “date night” and then take a leisurely drive back to Swaziland on Friday.

One of the errands was to look for “Bumbo” seats, which we need at the El Roi Baby home.  Our team had found them in Swaziland, but they cost around $50 US each, and we need 20 of them so the thought of spending $1,000 US on seats for our babies was tough. 

Ian and I found them for $38 US so I called back to Swaziland to cancel our order, which, was only minutes from having a deposit put down!  Ian stood at the check out counter at Baby City and asked to speak with the Manager about getting a discount for making such a large purchase AND of course share WHO was going to be using those seats.   It’s quite common here to ask for a discount and it almost always results in a 10% reduction in price, which would then have taken us to under $35 US per chair.

Just then a lady walked up to Ian and told him that she was the Sales Representative for the Bumbo competition chair.  She said she had overheard his conversation about the babies in Swaziland and had already called her boss to see if they could help us out. She explained that their chairs are specifically designed for an African baby’s shape and they were manufactured in South Africa, then she gave us the phone number for her boss and said that “Louise” was waiting for our call.

I called Louise at the Snappi Baby Seat company and she told me that they would be happy to sell us the seats at her cost and deliver them to anywhere in Johannesburg!  Well, her cost was $10 US and since their warehouse in Pretoria was on our way home to Swaziland we said we would stop by and pick them up.  Forty minutes later we were at the Snappi warehouse and decided to buy 40 of them (store 20 in the baby home storage container) and spent $400 US. Then she gave us another 10 seats for free for a total of 50.  

To review the numbers, we were to spend $1,000 US on 20 seats.  We ended up spending $400 US on 50 seats for an average cost of $8 US. 

It was a chance meeting at a Baby City store in Johannesburg.  We stopped at several other stores before we stopped there, but the timing was perfect and we saved a lot of money.

Yesterday we clearly saw the hand of God and it made me ask the question, why?  Why would God care about the price of chairs? Isn’t it all His money anyway? We work diligently to stretch every penny that is donated to us by our donors, but ultimately we believe that those funds come from Him.  But when this story unfolded yesterday we felt God so very close to us in the van.  When we told Louise the story of some of our children she wept.  When we showed her the photos of Deborah’s burned body, she wept, and gave us more Snappi Baby Chairs.

Was our meeting at Baby City a “chance” encounter?  Was our drive through Pretoria a “chance” drive?  I don’t think so.

“What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!  Luke 12:7 The Message Bible

And in other news … we got two more babies this morning!!  A newborn girl named Patricia and a newborn boy named Ezra, both abandoned by their mothers. Ezra was left in an empty garbage can/drum and Patricia put in a plastic bag and dumped in a pit latrine after birth.  The babies were born 3 days apart and both have had positive HIV rapid tests and are on treatment. They are home at the El Roi Baby home where they will be loved and cared for.


El Roi, the God who sees, saw us at Baby City, He saw Louise in her warehouse and He saw Ezra and Patricia when they were abandoned by their mothers, and He saw the mother’s in their hopelessness.  It’s hard to grasp the depth and breadth of His love for us, but I know that God really does care about the little stuff.  I hope you do too

Live from Swaziland … we have 98 babies now.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

The dying baby arrived in a cardboard box.

This past week we celebrated two birthdays for two boys who turned 4-years old. People laugh at me when I refer to them as the “big kids”, but they are our big kids and they are miracles.

For those of you who don’t know Caleb and Emmanuel, let me tell you their short life stories.

Caleb was born on July 11, 2011, and he was given to us in a cardboard box by his own father.

I was not in Swaziland when Helen went to pick up Caleb, but I am told it was a very traumatic day, for everyone. Caleb’s mother had died of HIV/AIDS related illness leaving her husband and baby with full-blown AIDS.

The father had no means to provide Caleb with food, clothing, love or life-saving medication and so Caleb was in and out of the hospital for malnutrition and HIV/AIDS related illnesses. Some times the father would stop the medication completely, leaving Caleb resistant to 1st line medication.  The Doctors and Baylor clinic worked with the hospital Social Worker to find a solution and that is how Caleb arrived at the El Roi Baby home.

He was a very sick baby when he arrived with lesions all over his body, raw and open wounds and eyes that were filled with sheer terror.  There were days when Helen thought that we might lose him to the disease that was trying to steal his life, but El Roi saw him. With special love, food, medication and praying without ceasing,  his little body returned from the brink of death caused by the effects of poverty and AIDS. 

Caleb will be on his ART (Anti-retroviral treatment) for life, or until a cure is found or he is healed.  It is a twice-daily routine that cannot be missed.  While Caleb is a happy and active boy who celebrated his fourth birthday on July 11th, he is still wearing clothes that are size 12-18 months (!) and he is on a special high calorie diet to try to put meat on his bones.  

Caleb is loved by all and we give thanks for this little life.

Emmanuel was born on July 17, 2011 and came to us malnourished and puffy from Kwashiorkor. 

I was living in Swaziland when the Social Welfare office called about him and had the opportunity to meet his young mother.  She was only 16-years old, she already had one child and was pregnant with another.  She came from a very poor family and had been working in prostitution for several years by that time. The pregnancies were a result of that life.  Emmanuel was a severely malnourished and sick baby so we had him admitted to the hospital immediately after we were given custody.  He was almost 1-year old when he came to us, but only had the development of a 4-month old baby.  His (ineffective) diaper was a plastic bag.

The mother asked us to take the new baby when he/she was born, but when the time came she gave birth in an outdoor bus stop and ran away with the baby and refused to give up the child. We have since learned that she had a fourth child and then a set of twins!  We pray for her and her other five children and we give thanks that Emmanuel (also known as “Manny” or “Emma”) is with us.

These are only two stories out of the 96 babies who now live at Project Canaan.  I often find myself saying that each child’s story is worse than the next one, but El Roi sees them all and has chosen each child to live at Project Canaan. Why only Emmanuel and not his siblings I do not know, but I trust in the Lord with all my heart and soul and give thanks for each and every life He sends to us

Live from Swaziland … Happy birthday Caleb and Emmanuel!