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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.   

In the US please click here.

In Canada please click here.

Live from Swaziland … this is a busy place.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

You want to do what???

This past week I got a call from a woman whom I could barely hear and who said she wanted to come see me about some children.  It seemed that she had children in her care whom she wanted help with, but I told her that she must go through the Social Welfare Department before coming to Project Canaan. But she pushed, in fact she demanded a meeting with me and her forcefulness was surprising, and seemingly un-Swazi, but because it was so unusual I agreed to meet with her for a short visit on Saturday morning. 

The lady arrived at 10AM sharp, and when I met her at the gate I found a Gogo, two middle-aged women and a man who said we had met before.  He did not look at all familiar and I didn’t know why all four were there.  When they told me who they were, and I felt like I had been hit with a 2” x 4” from the side and didn’t see it coming.

That Gogo was the Mother to the Father of Nomsa’s twin girls (!!).  The man was Nomsa’s Uncle (her mothers’ brother) and then the two women with her were his sisters (I think Nomsa’s Aunt’s, but could be something else as he introduced them as his sisters not Nomsa’s Aunts).  They had come for several reasons, which I would not find out until later in the conversation, but they started by thanking me for all the help we had given Nomsa over the past two years. He also danced around the notion of us not attending Nomsa’s burial that there was disagreement as to where she was to be buried, and then there was a pause.  It seemed as though there was more to be said, but standing at the front gate was not where it was to be done. 

We don’t have an office at Project Canaan so, maybe against my better judgment, I took them to the baby home to sit out back under the shade where there is a picnic table.  I sent a cryptic message to Ian to come and join me, and he did.  If he had not, the day may not have ended the way it did.

After a repeat of the conversation at the gate (“thanks” and “sorry”) they dropped the bomb. They were there to find out how to get Leah and Rachel and take them back to the family.


The Gogo (again, for emphasis, she is the Mother of the FATHER of the babies) wanted the girls and had come to claim them.  I asked where the father was and they said he was working. I reminded them that he had never laid eyes on his twins and I asked (as politely and graciously as I possibly could) why the family didn’t want to help the twins when they were dying of hunger and malnutrition on a mud floor while their mother lay dying beside them of MDR-TB?  None of the Father's family had every seen or met the twins and none had gone to visit Nomsa in the hospital. Why would they want to now come and take the babies in to their home?? They started to give an explanation of how sometimes children don’t share with their family what is really going on, they tried to say that they really didn’t know about the twins until recently and that they were ready to take the girls home.

I remember after Nomsa died and I was pleading with a Social Welfare officer to help explain to the family that she wanted to be buried at Project Canaan. The Officer said to me, “Janine, the problem with us Swazi’s is that no one cares about you when you are alive, but they fight over your body when you are dead.”

Yes, that is a direct quote. 

While my brain was madly trying to process what was being said to me, and my mouth was trying to stay closed so that I would not say anything that was inappropriate, offensive or that I would regret later.  Ian jumped in and was my knight in shining armor.  He gently explained how this home is under the Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM) office and how it is run. He explained that all of the children who we are for are placed with us through the DPM’s office and we are under their authority. Court orders are given for each child and if they wanted to appeal the court order they would need to do that before the girls would leave.

He then offered to take them through the baby home (where we have 39 babies with a capacity of 40), then on to the toddler home where they could not even identify which children had belonged to Nomsa (because they had never met them!) and then on to the preschool where the girls would learn to read and write.

Ian then offered to take them to Nomsa’s House where she lived up until the last 4 days of her life.  He opened the room, which I have not been in since she passed away, and showed them the large “Welcome Home” sign that was still on the wall with the hand and foot prints of her twin girls. 

All four of them walked out of the home shaking their heads. I was not sure how to interpret that. 

We moved on to show them the new Kindergarten that is being assembled/set up by our WLA friends from the US Bank today, and they were greeted by everyone who was preparing that incredible place of learning for Leah and Rachel, and all their brothers and sisters. 

And then we took them to the cemetery, where Nomsa is honored with a beautiful stone carving in memory of a beautiful African woman.  They stood in silence. Maybe they saw that Nomsa was loved?  Maybe they saw that she truly was our daughter, our sister and our friend? Maybe they were overwhelmed with all that they saw?   There was silence, and then they started to sing a song, which said, “We give you all the glory.  We worship you our Lord, you are worthy to be praised.”

All four of our visitors wept.  They walked slowly to their cars and then hugged us, thanked us and prayed the Lord’s blessing over us, then left.

My prayer is that I can honor my promise to Nomsa and raise Leah and Rachel to the very best of my ability in the safety of Project Canaan. After we went back to the house and had a complete meltdown at the thought of losing those beautiful twins, Ian reminded me that they are His children, not mine, and that I must trust Him in all things.  That is not always easy, but it was a timely reminder from my best friend, and husband of 23 years tomorrow, October 5th.  Happy Anniversary Ian, and thank you.

Live from Swaziland … trusting.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

You just never know what is going to happen.

Robert and Jan with the male twin.
Thursday started out as a normal day.  Maybe this is the new “normal”?

We were contacted by the Police Commander from our local Police station to ask if we could help a homestead in great need.  We were told that there was an old woman living with 11 small children and there wasn’t a grain of rice to feed them.  Could we just go and visit her and maybe assess the situation to see how we could help?  We said yes, and the next day I loaded up a crate of fresh green beans from the farm and box of Manna Pack and then asked Jan Bechtel and Robert Smucker if they wanted to come along for a short ride.  We would be back in an hour.  Ha!

Delivering fresh green beans from Project Canaan to a desperate family.
We picked up a Police Officer at the station and started on the drive that was not quite the “short distance” that we were promised, including driving down a dry riverbed because the bridge had been washed out by last year’s rain.  When we arrived at the homestead we were greeted by a middle aged woman (by our standards, but an old woman by Swazi standards), a few naked children running around, a few older children and a newborn male twin baby wrapped tightly in 5 layers of clothing and blankets (as Swazi’s do in 90F weather – I digress).   We didn’t even get the chance to ask the woman what her situation was before she handed the Police Officer the twin boy and reported that the mother had gone to town with the twin girl.  The woman was apparently an “Aunt” of the mother of the twins.

In the middle of flurried conversation in siSwati the Police Officer pointed to a 5-year old girl with a beautiful smile and told us that she is the reason that the Police know this family.

“That one was raped by her Uncle a few weeks past and that is what brought the police here in the first place” the Police Officer said.

The family's kitchen.
She delivered the sentence as if she was saying that this girl was good in math or soccer, very nonchalant, in front of everyone, including the young victim.  And just as quickly as the sentence was delivered, the conversation went back to the baby I was by then holding. 

Was the mother breastfeeding the baby boy? Yes.  When would she be back?  Maybe tonight or tomorrow.  What would the baby eat between now and then?  Nothing.  What is the baby’s name?  She didn’t know.  Houston, we have a problem.

As we spoke more and the story started to unravel, the police officer became more and more suspicious and concerned about the intent of the mother and welfare of the twins.  Allow me to make a long and complicated story short.

This 21-year old mother (who also has a 2 and 3-year old child) had a difficult pregnancy and passed out at work early in September. She was rushed to hospital and was admitted with Preeclampsia (Toxemia) for three weeks until her twin babies were finally delivered by caesarian section on Monday, September 15th (Ian and my mothers birthday too!).  Both babies were not doing well at birth and were admitted for five days. On Friday, September 19th they were all discharged, but the mother did not have the money to pay (equivalent of $30 USD) so she snuck out of the hospital with her twins and made her way back to a homestead where she had lived years before. Both of her parents are dead, and this was a distant “Aunt”. 

Unfortunately you don’t get your prescriptions until you pay your bill so with no antibiotics or pain pills, this young woman took a bus home with her newborn twins, after having had a C-Section.  Now, six days later she had gone back in to town with the twin girl because we were told that the baby had an infection where the IV had been in her hand while in hospital. The mother was going to RFM hospital to have it checked, but that didn’t add up to us because if she hadn’t paid her bill there, she couldn’t go back and ask for more help.  They would send her to the accounting department first. 

The Police Officer asked if we would drive to town to try to find the mother and we agreed, and we took the twin boy.  Thankfully I always carry a fully stocked diaper bag with me so we were able to put a diaper on the baby, changed his wet (size 6 months) clothes and Jan gave him a bottle of formula, which he guzzled 3 oz immediately!

We first went to the hospital on the off chance that she was actually there. As we pulled in to parking lot the police officer was called by the Aunt to say that the mother had just called her from a pay phone at the bus rank (a large area in the center of town where 50 buses and 100 vans gather to take people around the country – a somewhat dangerous and not “stranger friendly” place) and she was very weak and felt she was going to faint.  Then she hung up.  We raced down to that area and hopped out of the car to go and search for a needle in a haystack. Jan sat in the back seat of my car with the baby boy and Robert jumped in the front and locked the doors with instructions to leave if any trouble happened. 

Miraculously, within 15 minutes of scouring the busy bus area, we found the mother, with the baby girl on her back, and she was carrying 8 heavy bags of groceries.  As the story goes she actually went to town to confront the alleged father of the twins and he gave her R100 for food ($10 US).  She was the hopping on a bus back to her homestead. 

Both twins together again.
We put her in the car and I asked to see the baby’s hand immediately to see how infected it really was.  When we unbundled her we were shocked to find the IV needle still in the baby’s hand and taped up from the hospital – 7 days earlier!  What?  Again, until the bill is paid, the nurses don’t remove the IV ports as a way to deter people from running.  The mother had obviously pulled out the IV on the boy, and then got scared and didn’t do the girl. 

We had to go to another part of town to get the children’s health cards (!) and then went to the hospital. It took about 30 minutes of back and forth to get the bills paid (NOTHING is easy here) and by then the mother was looking very weak so we decided she needed to see a doctor.  Robert stayed with her while Jan, the twin boy, the Police Officer, the twin girl and I went to the maternity ward with the payment receipt to have the needle removed. 

When we got there the nurse remembered her well and then immediately said, “This baby needs to see a doctor. She is very jaundiced.  Please go straight to see a Doctor.”

So back we went to the Doctor side, paid for the child’s examination and got in line.  Finally we saw the Doctor (whom we know well) and he ran some blood tests, which came back very poorly so the baby girl was admitted.  Meanwhile, Robert found us to tell us that the mother’s blood pressure was very high and she was admitted.  It was 4PM. 

In the end, both mother and twin girl were admitted to the hospital with an expected two-week stay.  We were asked by the mother, police, and social worker at the hospital to take the twin boy with us to keep him healthy and reduce the mothers’ stress.  The boy was not breastfeeding at all so the mother had already purchased formula to feed him so us taking him to the bottle was not a problem. 

IV needle removed after being at home for a week.
We don’t typically do this kind of thing. We are not a temporary home or temporary solution for babies, but in this case we felt that we had to say “yes”.  Leaving a mother with high blood pressure in a hospital where she has to care for her own twins with a high chance of a health baby becoming a sick baby just didn’t make sense when we knew we could help.

So the baby boy came home with us (actually Jan never let go of him), we dropped the mother’s groceries off at the police station for the Aunt to collect and we got home around 6PM.  We pray that mother and baby heal quickly and that this family can be reunited in a couple of weeks. 

We don’t know what the future holds for this young mother and her four children, but we do know that El Roi sees her and He found her in that bus station and He got her and the baby back to the hospital in time. We believe that at least two lives were saved on Thursday, and all of us were changed.

Live from Swaziland …I am thankful for my car, fuel and a diaper bag.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words

The last couple of weeks have been very heavy blogs so today’s will be much lighter, shorter and hopefully inspiring.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words so today I will give you three photos to look at and, for those of you who have not been to Project Canaan yet, I will describe to you what you are seeing, in less than a thousand words.

Both photos were taken by Ian on his new “Phantom 2 Vision Drone”, which is the coolest thing I have seen in a long time. It’s a small 4-propeller remote control helicopter that Ian flies using his iPhone.  The video is spectacular and we hope to have lots of it on our website soon for you to see.  Today I will show you two still photos from the drone to wet your palette and to see the mighty hand of God at work.

The first photo is of the Children’s Campus and new Emseni Campus.

Starting at the bottom of the photo is the Emseni Campus, which is where the children will move when they are between the ages of 3-4 and it will be their permanent home until they finish High School.  The long building on the left where the walls are going up is Emseni East, the first dorm that will hold 40 children. The ground cut out on the right is The Oasis, which is the industrial kitchen and a dining hall that will seat 200 children. Both buildings should be up and running with children living there by March 2015.  The Emseni Campus will be home for 180 children in the years to come. 

Looking to the middle of the photo you will see a group of buildings with green roofs - that is the Children’s Campus.  The long building in line with Emseni East is the Labakhetsiwe Toddler Home.  The building to the right of that is the El Roi Baby Home. The building at the back of the green grass area is the Sisekelo Preschool and to the right of that is the Kuthula Infirmary where sick babies are taken to for special care.

On the top left corner of the photo is the new Project Canaan Academy Kindergarten, set to open in January 2015.  Of course in the top right hand side of the photo you can see our beautiful fields where we are growing green beans, mini-vegetables and baby corn.  Just last week we sold 4.5 tons of green beans alone!

The second photo is of Dam #3, which is being built in partnership with Rotary International.   As I type this, our water situation is getting critical and Dam #2 is down to only 20%.  Once the water is gone we will not be able to irrigate our crops between now and when the rainy season starts in November.   This dam will hold 11 million (41.4 million liters) of water.  It will be 50 feet high (15 meters), 590 feet (180 meters) long, 377 feet wide (115 meters) and the main road to the farm will run along the top of the dam.  It is being built with layers and layers of clay that is found right on Project Canaan and it is moved by a truck that carries 30 x 10 ton loads of clay each and every day to be dumped at the site. 

When the dam is complete and the rains come and fill it, we will be able to irrigate an additional 50 acres of land (20 hectares).  The water in the dam should last 240 days and thereby getting us through dry season with 3 harvests.  This will in turn benefit our community with more employment, access to food, and healthcare at the El Rofi Medical Centre.  The income generated through the increased sale of vegetables will help us provide for the 70+ children who are living at Project Canaan as well as get us closer to our goal of self-sustainability by the year 2020. 

Of course I can’t just give you those two photos without one that requires no words at all – all thousand words are in the picture itself.

Gabriel's Got Milk!
It is overwhelming to see all that God has done and continues to do every day. While we see it with our own eyes, the photos from the drone seem to give the projects a whole new perspective.  I sent the photo to a friend in Canada this morning and she replied back, “This is what God must see from His advantage point and He is smiling.” 

Live from Swaziland … I am incredibly thankful.


Emseni means “Grace” in siSwati.

Labkhetsiwe means “Chosen ones “ in siSwati.

El Roi means "The God Who Sees" in Hebrew.

Sisekelo means "Cornerstone/Foundation" in siSwati.

Kuthula means “Place of rest” in siSwati

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Dear Nomsa - things that needed to be said.

It’s strange how we want say things to people after they are gone that we couldn’t say to them when they were alive.  I am writing this letter to you, knowing that you will never read it, but knowing that there are things that still need to be said. 

I don’t have the courage to read the letter outloud so I have asked Ian to do it for me.  I hardly had enough courage to write it, but it needed to be written, for me, for Rachel and Leah and for the world.

I have never met anyone like you in my life. I have met people with courage and determination, but you were different. 

If you hadn’t gone and welcomed each new patient who arrived at the TB hospital and sat with them to get to know them, Baby Rahab would be dead today.  What kind of sick and dying person goes from bed to bed of other sick and dying people to encourage them and read scripture to them?  You are the only one that I know of.  I remember the night that Babazile died.  You sat with her until her last breath and then called me in the middle of the night to tell me she had passed.  We cried together.

If it weren’t for your direct intervention, Sepensile would be dead and so would her baby. But it was not okay with you that she was going to die in child birth at the TB Hospital and you made sure that I understood because you knew it woudn’t be okay with me either.  Only because of you, Baby Abigail is with us at the El Roi Baby Home and Sepensile is alive.  

I remember you asking me to bring English bibles for all of the women there and one in siSwati for the lady who couldn’t read English.  Why did you want them? So that you could have a bible study, with a room full of highly infectious women who had no visitors and very little hope for their future.  But you believed that Jesus was their hope, and you were going to make sure they knew that.

I remember you telling me recently that 70% of all the women you met at the TB Hospital had died.  You watched each of them, heard their screams during their night terrors, saw them fall and break bones, smelled them when all human dignity was lost and wept with them when they begged to go and die at home.

I also remember you asking me to bring you goodies.

“What kind of goodies?” I would ask. And you would just giggle and say, “You know what kind of goodies I like. You are my mother.”

Of course if I showed up with the wrong flavor of Oros juice, or if I forgot your Sprite or if the store didn’t have any pork ribs when I was shopping, I was scolded for my inadequacy.  And then we both laughed.

But here is the real truth. I did not like visiting you.  There, I’ve said it.  Not so that you could hear it, but I have spoken the truth.  I was committed to going and seeing you every week that I was in Swaziland, but I hated it.  I hated walking in and seeing women who were skin and bone lifting up their hospital gown to get a needle in their fatless hip.  I hated seeing the dozens of pills sitting beside the unidentifiable food that was required eating so that the pills might be absorbed.  I hated hearing the screams of pain of Sepensile after she fell and broke her femur in two (and her shoulder blade) knowing that Aspirin was the only pain killer available and no other hospital would take her for surgery because of her MDR-TB.   

I hated seeing your weight go down every week and I especially hated the days that I got there and you were having seizures, were not conscious and didn’t know I was there. That happened on your 26th birthday when Ian and I went to see you. Actually it was the day after your birthday, because I couldn't make it there on February 20th.  Too bad I hadn’t though because you were okay on that day, but the day after you were not. We left your favorite meat pizza for you, but I think you Isolation roommate may have enjoyed it.

Worst of all, though, was having to leave you there.  I hated going to visit because I hated leaving.  I grew to truly love you, even though I didn’t want to.  At times I was angry at God that He had brought us together because it caused me so much pain to go week after week, and afterall, why should I be feeling this pain?  You are not my biological child.   But our heavenly Father was teaching me.  You are a child of God, and He is the one who told me that you were the daughter of the King, and I must go and stand by your side. 

But there was another part of visiting you that I must also share.  When I would take my last breath of uninfected air, put on my N95 certified mask, strap on the protective shield around my heart and step in to Isolation Room #1 see you, your smile would light up the room, even when you were the most sick.  When I asked how you were doing you always said, “I am fine”.  That always made me laugh.

I loved the day in November that you were able to come to Project Canaan and get a tour in the back of a broken down bakkie with Lori Marschall at your side while I drove.   I loved that you could go in to Chloe’s room and sign her chalkboard with the message, “Hi Chloe, It’s your big sister. I love your room and I love you SO much!”  I loved that you got to eat your first hamburger at our dining room table and it became your favorite food (after pork ribs of course).  Obviously I didn’t fully understand your infectiousness at that time, but the Lord protected me.  

The day we were able to make a plan to move you to Project Canaan was one of the hardest days of my life.  How could I consider bringing someone with XDR-TB to a place where so many people work and live, not to mention my own family, your own babies, women living with HIV and people who would be exposed to your highly infectious disease.  I was wracked with guilt, but at the same time I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. 

You will never know how many people you impacted in the 52 days that you lived on Project Canaan.  From the women who lived near you, loved you and cared for you to the people who came from the US and Canada and wanted to meet you and tell you that they had been praying for you for many months. You impacted our family at the deepest level and you have left a hole that will never be filled.  Even now I find myself checking my messages to see if I have received an SMS from you, and when there isn’t one, it is then that I remember you are gone… and there is no cellular service in heaven.

I think you knew you were dying they day you called the doctor and asked to go to the hospital.  Your last words to me were, “Janine, even though I am going to the hospital, will you still be my mom?  And will Project Canaan always be my home?” My answer was simply, “Yes.  I will always be your mother and this will always be your home.”  

Thank you Jere for a beautiful message.
Today we remember you with love and admiration and we honor you with our words, our music and our prayers.  We will tell your daughters about your courage, your strength, your feistiness and your faith in a God who never left your side, even to the very end.

Gcebile, I look forward to seeing you again soon.  But for now I mourn your passing.   Matthew 5:4 says, ““Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  I pray for his comfort for all of us today and in the days ahead.  

You are loved.


The Swazi singing at the funeral was beautiful. We also played two songs that make me think of Nomsa: 

"Stand" by Donnie McClurkin

"I look to you" by Whitney Houson

Live from Swaziland ...


Saturday, September 6, 2014

If you're going to read this, are you going to do something?

This is Baby Eve so we are calling this our Christmas Eve photo.
  I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support the came from so many of you readers after hearing about Nomsa’s death.  Contrary to her personal desire to be buried here at Project Canaan, she was buried early this morning by her family at an empty homestead.  The family believes that is the only way she will meet her ancestors in the afterlife so she had to be buried there.  Next Saturday we will have a memorial service at the chapel and honor her and to pray for the other patients who are still dying of this horrific disease.  After that I plan to go away for a couple of days with Ian and mourn.  I haven’t been able to start that process yet.

I know that many of you have also asked the question, “What can I do to help”?  Well, I have an answer.  You can help us to care for Nomsa’s twin girls, Rachel and Leah simply by doing some early Christmas shopping.  Please don’t stop reading – today is the day to take a small step of action that can have a BIG impact on these children. 

Leah and Rachel Christmas 2013
The Khutsala Artisans here on Project Canaan have been busy making beautiful Christmas tree ornaments since January 2014.  We have been able to employ 24 women and men all year so that they could hand make 3,000 ornaments and our goal is to sell all of those ornaments in the month of September.  Each ornament is only $10 US and it’s a perfect Christmas gift, easy to put in an envelop and mail and 100% of the profit comes back to providing for our babies, including Leah and Rachel. 

Here is what I am asking EACH and EVERY one of you who is reading this blog.  PLEASE go and order TWO (or more) ornaments today.  You can get last year’s Christmas Angel or this year’s Christmas tree and they will be in the mail to you in the next two weeks from our office in Georgia.  It’s as easy as clicking here. 

Last week 1,150+ people read my blog about Nomsa, but on average 500+ people read my blog every Saturday morning.  Many of you tell me it's part of your Saturday morning routine, and that warms my heart.  Now, if all 500 of you readers bought only two ornaments (and I know some of you will buy more) we can generate close to $10,000 this weekend.  That’s real money.  We spend approximately $1,000 US on Baby Formula alone every month.  If we can sell 1,000 ornaments in the next couple of days we will have the funds to buy Baby Formula for 10 months.  And you would be a part of that.  Then we only have 2,000 more to sell. 

It’s that easy.

I thank you for being a regular reader and for sharing these stories with others.  Now I am asking for your help to take action and share these beautiful handmade ornaments with all of your friends and family. Together we really can make a difference.  Please don't make me beg :)

Live from Swaziland … thank you for starting your Christmas shopping today.


PS – I am told we are getting another baby girl next week. Stay tuned for details.

In case you missed the "click here" you can click on this link: