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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Africa – Canada – United States – Africa … a journey of hope.

This past month has been fun, long, hard, exciting, exhausting, rewarding, encouraging and filled with hope.

I am always encouraged to meet people who say that they start their Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee and this blog.  Many of those people also follow me on Facebook so when I write my weekly blog I try not to repeat what has already been posted.  That being said, for those of you readers who don’t follow on Facebook, I want to be sure to give you a short update on some of our favorite, and important moments from our time in North America this past month.

I will start by saying that Ian and my hearts are in Swaziland.  The work that we do and roles that we fill are more than full time jobs and we spend 100% of our time focusing on all things “Project Canaan”, and we LOVE IT.  So packing for 3 weather zones, to go on 12 flights and stay in 9 different hotels/rooms in 4 weeks is not really our idea of “fun” anymore.

That being said, this month was amazing and here are just a few photos to give a glimpse of SOME of what we experienced.

The highlight is always seeing our 20-year old son Spencer, and just hanging out and chatting with him. He is a remarkable young man, and so much fun to "chill" with. 

We had a fantastic 12-days with the Egg Farmers of Canada and Egg Farmers of Ontario as they officially launched their partnership with Heart for Africa and their commitment to build a Egg Farm on Project Canaan in 2015. This photo is with the Canadian Minister of Agriculture.  We got some great media exposure and the links below are two worth seeing/reading. 

CTV News Segment:

The Toronto Star:

Tim Lambert (CEO EFC), Honourable Minister Gerry Ritz , Janine, Ian and Peter Lambert (Chairman of EFC)
We visited with Ian’s family in Ottawa and always enjoy seeing everyone and had the privilege of speaking at the West Ottawa Rotary Club to thank them for their participation in the funding of the Living Water Dam.
Diane and Jim Maxwell
We got to visit my 84-year old mom, who lives in a nursing home in Ontario and my cousin Kim who is my voice when I am not there.  Each time I see her I am so thankful that my mom is the reason that I believe in Jesus and have followed His path, and I am equally aware that each visit might be our last.
I love you mom.
So thankful for my cousin Kim.
We loved seeing old friends and work colleagues and enjoyed getting caught up with their lives and families.
My besties... Dee Dee, Judy and Kathryn.
So awesome to see Charlene, Sally and Diane (with Carol Kirk taking the photo).
It seemed that this month was 4-weeks of meeting for coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Not ideal as we are trying to lose weight, but so much fun to meet new people and hear their stories. 
From Canada we went back to Georgia for more time with Spencer and got to have amazing burgers with Chad and Amy Gregory as they search Atlanta for the very best hamburger experience.

Our friends, Chad Gregory, CEO of the United Egg Producers, and his beautiful wife Amy.

Welcome North Point/Waumba Land team!

Welcome Marsh family who want to commit to do something "more".

Thank you Kim and David for your hospitality and generosity.
We enjoyed seeing all of our friends at the MedAssets annual conference in Las Vegas where we sold $4,800 in jewelry and recruited more people to volunteer with us in 2016.

MedAssets conference with Board members, Sandra Green and Ned Lehman.
On our final Sunday night we were a part of a wonderful fundraising event with our inspirational friend Captain Jerry Coffee as the key note speaker. Our goal was to get more people to sign up as a monthly Angels and the event raised $24,000 to help with the monthly costs of raising our 91 babies. Maybe you can help with that today?

The Grand Finale happened in Washington, DC, where we spent time visiting Senator John McCain and then attended a magical evening that our friends from UPS hosted in the beautiful UPS town house.  The goal of that event was to raise funds for us to start our Hydroponic Greenhouse project to grow strawberries and tomatoes and this mighty team raised $47,000+ for the project!

Such amazing friends - Janice Johnson and Teri McClure.
Thursday night we got on a plane in DC, routed back through Atlanta and then flew on to Johannesburg.  Today we woke up in South Africa and took one last flight to our beloved Swaziland.  

We are so thankful to all of our friends, family and supporters who give selflessly and sacrificially help us provide for the children at Project Canaan, and so many others around the country of Swaziland.

We are thankful to be home and we are feeling hopeful.

Live from Swaziland … it IS Saturday morning.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eating at "Road Kill Grill". (Confessions from a self-proclaimed ‘foodie’)

Food in Swaziland is simple.  We eat very “clean” food (not that our weight reflects that in any visible way).  We don’t eat fast food, food with preservatives and Ian and I love to cook at home together. 

But when you live abroad and plan to head back “home” the dreams and visions of past food loves start to dance in your head.

When Ian and I landed in Canada, our first lunch stop was to get Poutine.  What is Poutine you might ask?  It is a delicacy from the French part of Canada and it consists of a bowl of French fries, delicately sprinkled with squeaky cheese curds, all covered with smoking hot beef gravy.  Then you flavor it to your personal taste by adding white vinegar, ketchup and lots of fresh pepper.  It’s divine, but you can almost feel your arteries closing while you consume it.  

Ian and I love watching The Food Network on Sunday afternoons, and a particular favorite is Guy Fiery’s “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” (DDD).   A few months ago we discovered that DDD has an APP for our phones, which we both purchased immediately.  Now you might ask WHY we would do that when we don’t even live in the US, but you should check out the APP yourself and you will see why. You can follow the locations of the show, add locations to your personal “bucket list” or just search the APP while you are in a new city.

Ian watched a particular show about a food establishment in Las Vegas called “Road Kill Grill” and immediately added it to his “bucket list”.  Not only that, but he arranged for us to arrive in Las Vegas a day earlier than needed for the Med Assets conference, JUST so that we could go there.  No word of a lie.

A 30-minute taxi ride, with a driver who had never been to “that part of town” ended in an old suburban area that had to have been the very first houses ever built in Las Vegas.  As we arrived it was clear that this was not at DINER, nor was it a DRIVE-IN … but it clearly qualified for the show, if you know what I mean.

This place is a butchery, and they smoke and preserve meat, with the claim to fame of being the largest Deer meat processor in the southwest (pause).  

I won’t lie, if the taxi driver hadn’t driven off so quickly, and my husband hadn’t planned this visit for so many months, I think I would have headed back to the Vegas strip for a light lunch.  But no, the scene was set, the actors in place and we entered the “establishment” with great expectations (I could use the words “hesitation” or “anticipation” here).

We were not disappointed. A large stuffed coyote was the main decoration in a very small cafeteria-style room with five main food items on the menu. You could order meat, meat or meat.  We chose meat … ribs to be exact.

The food was good old-fashioned southern cooking complete with all the usual sides of mac’n cheese, potato salad, slaw, baked beans or over cooked green beans.  The ribs were good and the BBQ sauce even better.  The salt induced coma that I fell in to shortly after eating required me to not only have a two hour nap in the afternoon, but our stomach’s actually refused any thing further for the rest of the day, including dinner.  

We still have one more very busy week of fundraising and meetings ahead so Ian and I decided to make a “wise” decision last night and stay away from the big costume party/blow out that annually closes the MedAssets conference.  Instead we decided to do a “tapas-hop” and try a few appetizers from a few new restaurants.

Our final “hop” landed us at a restaurant that is a MUST GO if you are ever in Las Vegas. It is located at Mandalay Bay and is called Rx Boiler Room.  It was there that we fell in love … with a slider.  (For those who don’t know what a slider is, it’s a very small 2-bite size burger).  I was highly skeptical of the “Surf  & Turf” slider that was described as “Filet Mignon, sweet butter poached Maine Lobster with Maltaise sauce”, but when we questioned the Waiter about it, he literally rolled his eyes with the look of love and said “you must try it”. And we did. And we fell in love with a slider.

The rest of the menu was equally outstanding and the Meze platter of baba ganoush, tzatziki and taramosalata finished of our visit to Las Vegas (and helped redeem my memories of ribs that almost killed me). 

Whether it’s fresh green beans from Project Canaan, “fresh” Poutine in Canada, or famous ribs in Las Vegas, we love food.  And we are thankful that we have access to good food and choice each and every day when so much of the world does not have such luxury.

Live from Georgia … thankful to be able to eat meals with Spencer this weekend.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Baby Shirley is home in Swaziland. Gogo Shirley is home in heaven.

Baby Shirley at 6-months old after surgery.
This blog is based on a eulogy that I wrote for Shirley Ward’s funeral on Thursday of this past week. It’s a story of incredible “coincidence”, or “fate” or “God’s plan” – depending on how you see things. I personally see the hand of God in this situation.

I want to tell you a story.

A story of two people named Shirley, both of who were chosen by God to make a difference in the world.  It is a story of hope from hopelessness and one that will be told for generations to come.

The first person we will call “Gogo Shirley”.  Gogo Shirley is our friend, our sister, our mother, our Grandmother and our Great Grandmother whom we celebrate this day. 

The second person we will call “Baby Shirley”.

The very day that Gogo Shirley was taken to Durban, was the very day that a little baby girl was picked up at the Mawelawela Woman’s Prison and sent to live at the El Roi Baby Home.  We named this little one “Baby Shirley” because she had just survived the fight of her life, and we wanted to give her a strong name and a namesake who was a Jesus-loving, God-fearing, prayer warrior.  We named her after Gogo Shirley Ward.

Gogo Shirley in July 2014 at the official opening of the El Rofi Medical Clinic.
This little baby had a horrific start to life.  Her young mother was filled with hopelessness and decided to dump her newborn baby in to a pit latrine after giving birth on September 10, 2014.  Six hours later the mother went back to check on the baby only to find her still alive, so then she threw in fire on top of Baby Shirley to try to kill her.  Someone heard the small baby’s cry and ran to her rescue, and because of that person, Baby Shirley lived.  
Baby Shirley at 6-weeks before surgery.
Baby Shirley’s injuries were extensive and she spent 6-weeks in a government hospital fighting for her life.  When she came to the El Roi Baby home she struggled to breathe and ended up in hospital with pneumonia several times because food would go down in to her lungs.

We know that Gogo Shirley prayed tirelessly for Baby Shirley, and the Lord heard her prayers.  Baby Shirley was taken to the US for surgery and care.  She is alive and well, and even thriving after her life-saving, life-giving surgery.

Baby Shirley was being loved and cared for by complete strangers who claimed her as their own and worked diligently to save her life, while Gogo Shirley was being loved and cared for by her own family who did everything in their power to help extend her life.

But God’s plans are not always our plans.  It is He who gives life, and it is He who takes life away. He has numbered our days and it Is He who decides when we are to be taken home.

And do you know what?  The very day that Gogo Shirley went “home” to be with the Lord was the very day that Baby Shirley came “home” to Swaziland to live at the EL Roi Baby home again. 

This story is one of so many stories that each of us could share about seeing the hand of God on Shirley Ward’s life. 

·      It was Shirley who met with Cindy Van Wyk and told her we were looking to buy some land, which eventually became Project Canaan.

·      It was Shirley who sat for hours (or days) on end in government offices to try to determine the process for opening a home for abandoned babies.

·      It was Shirley who met the Social Welfare Officer who brought the first baby, Joshua, to the El Roi Baby home.

·      It was Shirley who answered phones, ran to the bank, anointed babies with oil, cried when babies died, cheered when babies were rescued, called the Inkhosikati when we needed help, met with government leaders and pastors to make sure that the orphans of the Kingdom were allowed to attend Litsemba.

·      It was Shirley delivered food to families in need and to our partner homes.  Shirley reconciled accounts, handled accounting and paid bills.

·      Shirley was a mighty warrior with a sharp sword and an army of angels behind her.

Shirley, you were a great friend, an incredible role model and have changed the face of Swaziland.  You will be greatly missed.

Your name will be known to all of the children at Project Canaan and your strength, your fortitude and your faith will remain with all who live in the city on the hill that you helped build.  You finished well.

Shirley’s family had a service in her honor on Thursday, and her ashes will be returned to Swaziland where she will be buried on Project Canaan when we arrive back at the end of April.

All that can be said now is “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Live from Georgia … He is risen indeed!  Happy Easter everyone.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Oh Canada, je vous remercie pour votre hospitalité.

This past week Ian and I have been guests of the Egg Farmers of Canada in Ottawa, Canada.  While we are told that it is “spring” here, the -15C (33 F) weather, snow on the ground and grey skies seem to contradict that belief.

The purpose of this part of our trip was to be here for the official launch of the partnership between Heart for Africa and the Egg Farmers of Canada. This included media interviews and many meetings on Parliament Hill with Members of Parliament who may (or may not) be interested in what we are doing in Swaziland.

We were completely out of our “comfort zone” and on days where it was a 122F (50C) difference in temperature between Ottawa and Swaziland, our hearts were warmed by the friendly welcome that we received by every one we met. 

Thursday was a particularly interesting day as we were invited to speak at the Standing Committee on Foreign and International Development.  We were considered “witnesses” and were brought in before the committee as “experts” on what is happening on the ground in Swaziland. 

We met with the Chairman and a Member of this Committee on Wednesday and they were interested enough in what we were doing in Swaziland that they extended our time on Thursday from 60 minutes to 90 minutes.  

It was a fascinating experience and we started by reading a 7 minute written introduction that we had to submit the week before so that it could be translated in to French (all things in Canadian government are in both French and English).  From there, the committee members had a “first round” of questions, which gave each Member of Parliament 7-minutes to ask us questions and for us to answer them. Once the first round of questions was finished, then the second round was made up of 5-minute time slots of questions and answers. 

All dialogue was either in English and interpreted into French or in French and interpreted into English.  When questions were asked in French, we put an earpiece in our ears and listened to the interpreted question. When we answered in English the interpreter changed it back in to French for the MP.  It was an exhausting, but interesting experience, and we sincerely hope that the Canadian government will be able to come alongside Heart for Africa and assist us in the future.

For those Canadians reading this, we will be on Breakfast Television on Monday, March 30th at 6:20 AM.  CTV Ottawa is doing a feature on us that will air on the evening news on Thursday, April 2nd at 6:25 PM.  

We are enjoying this time at “home” where the Tim Horton’s coffee is hot, the air outside is cold, much of the conversation around us is not in English (or siSwati) and the people are friendly and supportive. 

Thank you again Tim Lambert, Peter Clarke and the Egg Farmers of Canada for your love and support.  We are proudly Canadian.

Live from our Nation’s Capitol … we are flying to Toronto.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

River Baby – Suicidal mom – Tuberculosis of the spine - Graphic photo warning.

This past week was full of emotional ups and downs. My faithful readers are likely tired of hearing that, but as I step off a plane in Atlanta, Georgia this morning, on my way through to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, I am so aware that the next four weeks in North America will be NOTHING like the last week(s) in Swaziland.  And for the moment, I give thanks.

On Tuesday I made the two-hour drive (again) to pick up the baby who I wrote about in by blog on March 7, 2015.  If you haven’t read it, please do (  This baby boy had been placed in a plastic bag by his mother and dumped in the river just after birth.  Miraculously he lived, but sadly his “back end” was eaten by river crabs before he was rescued by a “passer-by”.

When we picked up the baby at the hospital we were shown how to care for his “double barrel” colostomy (two output holes instead of one?!).  We were also shown his wound so that we would know how to care for it. The nurse removed the gauze that was attached to the open wound, sprayed it with saline, cleaned it with Betadine and then put new gauze on for us to bring him home.  

Double barrel Colostomy opening
They didn’t have the right size colostomy bag so they had to use a razor to cut another one to fit both holes.  I am not sure that we have even found newborn colostomy bags in Swaziland, so they were doing the very best with what they had.  The hospital also didn't have bottles (bottle feeding is always discouraged in hospitals largely to prevent people from mixing formula with dirty water) so this little guy was being fed with a cup for the past two weeks.

When I met with the Doctor about the wound care, he said that the wound is so deep, it looks as if a rat was burrowing a hole.  And if that wasn’t enough, the baby tested positive for HIV when a rapid test was done. 

We prayed long and hard about what to call him, and it was decided by our Senior Supervisors that “River” was a good name.  In Swazi tradition, it is common to give a child a name based on something that happened that day like a big wind or lots of rain.  He will be called River, for that is where his young life was saved (and we already have a Moses).

The next day I was picking up the mother of Baby George to have her help us get a birth certificate for him. She was a rape victim and didn’t want the baby who was the result of that rape.  As we drove together she started to tell me how desperate she was when she learned of the pregnancy.  She cried out to God and begged for His help in that situation.   She was ashamed and knew her mother would be so angry at her and not believe her story so she tried to commit suicide … many times.  And then she laughed and said, “And I couldn’t even do that!”  She went on to explain that she had eaten rat poison (a common suicide method here in Swaziland) on several occasions in order to end her life, but she said she didn’t even get a stomachache or diarrhea!  Nothing. She laughed again and said, “I prayed to God to help me and He did. He wouldn’t let me die or my unborn baby.  He must have a big plan for this baby.”  He is the God who sees.

Just before I left to go to town I was called by a Social Welfare officer to tell me that one of our other baby’s mothers was in the hospital, and was very very sick (which is why the child was placed with us in the first place).  She has Tuberculosis in her bones and it is specifically targeting her lower spine. UGH.  She was having nightmares about dying and just wanted to see a photo of her children.  Two of her older children are placed at a different home in Swaziland, and the youngest one, Bella, is with us.  So on my way off the farm I stopped and took a short video of her on my handy-dandy iPad that showed beautiful Bella walking with the assistance of an Auntie holding both her hands.

When we arrived at the hospital (and spent an hour trying to get permission from a security guard, three nurses and a doctor to visit her before visiting hours opened) and when we showed her the video of her baby and she wept.  She was so overwhelmed by the moment I just didn’t know what to do other than take a photo of her and tell her that I will put this photo in her baby’s file. 

It’s been a long week, but I am rewarded by seeing Spencer’s happy face for the next 24 hours, enjoying Target, Macy’s and PF Chang’s and then I get to see my mom in her nursing home next weekend.  God is good, all the time.

Live from Georgia … it is Saturday morning.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

A baby dies every single hour in Swaziland. Can eggs help?

On Monday, March 9th the front page headline of a National newspaper claimed that “Over 8,860 babies die in 11-months”, and for anyone reading that with a smart phone or calculator nearby you can do the math to see that more than 26 babies die every day in Swaziland. That is shocking.

The article went on to explain, “At least 8,860 infants have died in the past 11-months.  This figure is based on the Infant Morality Rate (IMR) of 54.82 as per American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 2014 Country Health Ratings.  IMR refers to the number of children under a year old who die in a given population per thousand.  It is an indicator used to measure the health and well being of a nation.”

Swaziland has the 5th highest IMR in the world, only topped by Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

99% of all Childhood Mortality is found in developing nations and it is estimated that 60%-80% of all of those deaths are directly related to low birth weight.*

You can go to the link below and research this yourself, but let me explain this in layman’s terms (or Janine’s terms) how I interpret this based only on my personal observations and experience in Swaziland over the past 10 years.

First, those numbers, based on the CIA, are calculated on a ratio to live births in the country. Therefore, it would be safe to assume that they don’t include babies who die on the side of the river, in pit latrines, who are burned to death by their parents or die of malnutrition at home because their mother was too poor to take them to a hospital.  The number is much higher, I promise you, but undocumented. I am glad to get that off my chest.

Next, while there are other factors that lead to low birth weight, a malnourished mother is at the top of the causes.  I have seen hundreds of women who are in the labor ward at the hospital who hardly look 6-months pregnant, let alone ready to deliver a full term baby.  Women living in the rural communities are living on pap (a porridge made strictly from ground maize/corn, similar to grits, but without the butter or salt).  These young mothers are starving, their babies are starving (and dying) and the other children who are living in the homestead are suffering in the same way, but somehow they dodged becoming a Childhood Mortality statistic.

We are told that 65% of all Swazi’s depend on International Food Aid for one meal a day.  In much of the country the only meal a child will receive in a day is their school lunch, which is provided by the government from Monday to Thursday.  Friday to Monday are very long, hungry days.

Heart for Africa is trying to do our part in helping feed Orphaned and Vulnerable children through our rural church partners.  We currently feed 3,500 children every week and provide 74,000+ hot meals every month.  We distribute Feed My Starving Children “Manna Pack’s” along with ground maize from Project Canaan to the churches every two weeks.  But the churches are being stretched by more and more hungry children, and so are we.

Here is where this story gets hopeful.  Ian and I will be flying to Canada on March 22nd at the invitation of the Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC -  We will be speaking at their Annual General Meeting and sharing with the Canadian egg farmers, and the Canadian population through media about the plight of the children of Swaziland (both born and unborn).  The EFC has signed a partnership agreement with Heart for Africa to fund, build, support and provide training for an Egg Farm on Project Canaan that will provide thousands of hardboiled eggs each and every day that we will then distribute to the children in our rural feeding projects.

“Once complete, the Egg Farm will provide fresh eggs for all the children living on the Project Canaan Farm, and also help thousands of people in the community by providing a high quality, locally produced protein, that’s essential for human growth and development.”  Tim Lambert, CEO Egg Farmers of Canada.

Providing eggs isn’t going to solve the Infant Mortality Rate of Swaziland overnight, but over time, eggs can play a significant role in increasing the County Health Rating and I do believe that they will save many lives and increase the health of thousands of children. In the meantime, we will do our part by saving the babies that we can, and providing for them with the support of our friends.

Live from Swaziland … I want to Get Crackin’ (and make breakfast).


Saturday, March 7, 2015

The newborn baby was being eaten by river crabs.

Yesterday morning I got a call from a Social Welfare Officer who asked if we had room for a newborn baby boy?  She said that after the mother had given birth she wrapped him in a plastic bag and then dumped him in a stream. He was found several hours later by people passing by. Fortunately, he had not drowned or been eaten by a crocodile, but unfortunately he was covered in fresh water river crabs that had been eating his flesh and that they did a lot of damage to the back side of his body.

The injured baby was rushed to hospital on Tuesday and by Thursday he was taken in to the surgical ward to try to clean and repair the damage.  The mother is still missing and police are actively looking for her.  To receive a call like this is not only shocking and heartbreaking, but made me physically sick to my stomach for much of the day.  I was sent photos of the damaged baby that I have chosen not to post publically at this time.  I wish I could “un-see” them.

We pray for this baby and while we don’t know what the future holds, we know that Jesus has him securely in the palm of His hands.

EVERY time that we purchase a Swazi National newspaper and are shocked, sickened and saddened by the headlines. 

Today’s blog is simple. Ian and I purchased the two National newspapers for this past Thursday then went through and clipped a few headlines in order to give you a taste of what is happening here in our news world.

During our search we found a tiny article that mentioned the baby who was found on the side of the river.  To tell you the truth, I totally missed it the first time I went through the paper.  Too common, buried several pages in, not really news I guess?

Come Lord Jesus, come.  I am not sure how much more of this I can take.

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the God who sees.