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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!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Stop raping our children!


I am really sick and tired of newspaper headlines that announce that yet another young Swazi child has been raped, infected with HIV and/or pregnant.  What is wrong with these men? 

We currently have 15 babies who were born to mothers who were raped between the ages of 12 and 15.  We have another 15 babies who were found in pit latrines, wrapped in garbage bags or dumped in a river and we will never know how old those mothers were, but I can guess that they were all very young, very afraid and very ashamed. Many other babies came from victims of rape, but over the age of 16-years. 

It’s happening all over the country and in many cases is being hidden from the police and Social Welfare so the criminals can continue the terror that they put on young girls who can’t speak out for fear of being killed.  In so many African countries (not just Swaziland) a girl’s body is not her own, it belongs to her father, grandfather, uncles, cousins and brothers. What kind of a man takes joy in having sex with his own daughter, granddaughter, sister or niece?

In Swaziland it’s hidden under something called “tibitenhlu”, which is a common expression here used to mean “keep it hidden and in the house/family”.  In English we might say “sweep it under the rug or keeping things hidden behind closed doors”, but tibitenhlu has a more sinister meaning of hiding things within the family.

This past week I have been directly involved in a case of a 15-year old girl who was raped by her uncle for 4 years (and infected with HIV) and then for another year by another uncle and impregnated. The second case is one of a 12-year old who was raped by a family member and is now pregnant at the age of 13. 

I am sick of it.

This will be a short rant, but rapists be warned.  I believe that Swazi's will rise up and start reporting you to the police and you will be imprisoned.  You can also be assured that there is a special place in hell for you. 

Phansi Ngetibitenhlu bika kudlwengulwa kwebantfwana!
(Stop hiding secrets and report child rape!)

Live from Swaziland …


Saturday, July 4, 2015

What do hysterectomies, cosmetic surgery, Tuberculosis and tooth extractions all have in common?

The answer is, they were all a part of my week.

First, may I take a moment to wish all of our American friends around the world a Happy 4th of July!  We are thankful for you and all you do to help us here in Swaziland.

Now, back to the headline.

This week was like so many others, filled with crazy drives, crazier conversations and lots of hospital.

We started the week getting our two small Jack Russell Terriers spayed.  When the veterinarian came out after the surgeries he told us that he had done a hysterectomy on both of them based on some serious irregularities that he had only see a few times in his whole career.

Two days later we had to take in one of our Boerboel dogs (Georgia) for cosmetic eye surgery (I am not kidding).  Her eyelashes fold in to her eyes rather than sticking out to catch dust so she struggled seeing and always had eye infections.  She now can see much better, but did not AT ALL being locked up for a night while here stitches started to heal and ate her way through the wooden door (and propane tank) holding her captive. To quote Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing”, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner”.

The next few are all human stories.

We got great news this week that two of our babies who had been on TB treatment were now cleared and finished their medication. That was awesome and life-giving news!

And the highlight for dozens of Project Canaan workers this week (in the medical world) was the arrival of Dr. Stuart Coe and his 17-year old daughter Kenna. They came from Alpharetta, GA to practice dentistry and spent Monday – Friday working 7AM to 6PM to help people with major dental needs.

Under less than ideal circumstances including equipment malfunction, daily power outages, communication challenges and some very complicated cases, they managed to extract 31 teeth, fill 59 teeth, take 80 x-rays on THE MOST AMAZING PORTABLE X-RAY MACHINE THAT WAS LOANED TO STUART and do the equivalent of $33,000 US in dental work (that is R396,000 in free dental care!).

All in all it’s been a great week.  This afternoon we expect 20 students from Changhua Senior High School in Taiwan to join us for the weekend.  We look forward to having our friend Mr. Lewis Lu back again.

Live from Swaziland … I must rush to the highway where the students bus just broke down.


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.


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.