Follow our weekly news by email

Saturday, March 17, 2018

18-month-old baby girl is the size of a 5-month-old


This week we welcomed a baby we are calling Dinah.  She is 18-months-old, weighs 7KG (15 pounds) and that is her weight after spending two full months in the hospital being treated for malnutrition. The dietician at the hospital literally brought her back from the brink of death and now it’s our turn to help her begin to grow and develop.

I have learned a LOT about malnutrition over the years, and it’s a complicated condition with long-term effects including physical stunting, direct structural development of the brain, impairment of infant motor development and often results in death, even after being on “food treatment” for weeks or months.

If you look at the chart below, you will see that her length and weight don’t come close to hitting the low end of the child growth chart.  Her length is that of an average 9-month-old, and her weight is that of an average 5-month-old child.  


Malnutrition also weakens the immune system resulting in complicated skin conditions that often leave permanent scaring (see photo below).

Malnutrition often results in anemia (low iron in the blood), and where this little one should have a Hemoglobin count of 12+, yesterday it was a mere 6.4.  In the western world she would be given a transfusion with an HB level as low as 7-8, but here we give iron daily, along with a high iron diet filled with spinach and liver if we can get it. 

If her malnutrition wasn’t enough, she also has arrived with severe pneumonia, with labored breathing and has a fever of 103F as I type this blog.  She is hungry and sick and scared and miserable.

Two weeks ago we got another little girl whom we call Cynthia. She is also malnourished and is the same age as Dinah (18-months), but in the photo below you can see the significant difference in the length of their legs and size of their feet and heads. Dinah is clearly much smaller and more underdeveloped.

We have amazing, trained staff who are caring for Dinah, Cynthia and all of our other malnourished children, and we are forever thankful for our nurses Hannah and Anthony. But it takes money, medicine, good food, a lot of tender loving care and a lot of prayer to love these children back to life. Thank you to each and every one of you who supports us on a monthly basis – you are truly ANGELS to us.

If you are not currently supporting our children, but feel moved to do so today, please click on the link below and get started. EVERY dollar helps and we need help today.

Live from Swaziland … please pray for Dinah.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

A baby with a HIV viral load of 10 million?

I have to be VERY careful about sharing confidential health and history information about our children so that their privacy and dignity is maintained.  There are so many things that I want to share in my blogs about individual children’s stories, but I can’t. I am including several super cute photos of super cute children so as to not identify this child in this blog.

Today I have such a HUGE good news report that I will share it subversively, without putting a name or face to the story.  For those of you who know our children well, you may be able to put two and two together.

We received a little boy nine months ago who was severely malnourished, had tuberculosis and full-blown AIDS.  He was just 2-years-old and couldn’t crawl or stand and only made grunting animal noises.

A short HIV/AIDS lesson:  there are two important measures to watch carefully when someone is HIV positive - the CD4 count and the viral load count.  The HIGHER the CD4 count is, the better.  The LOWER the viral load count is, the better.  (A viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in your blood. The more HIV there is in your blood (and therefore the higher your viral load), then the faster your CD4 cell count will fall, and the greater your risk of becoming ill because of HIV. – Source

I remember when this little guy was finally discharged from the hospital to come home to us.  I was so happy with his progress (always the optimist) and just knew that he had turned a corner, and would surely live.  Our wonderful Pediatrician (always the realist) quickly reminded me that he was FAR from being out of the woods, and also reminded me that his CD4 count was so low that it hardly registered, and his viral load count was at TEN MILLION.

In eight short months he has been given love, nutritious food, anti-retro-virals, TB medication (which he is now finished!), more love, more medical care, physical/physio therapy, lots of antibiotics for never-ending ear infections and skin conditions and never-ending prayer with the expectation of total healing.

He now walks, plays, sings in the choir, dances to music, prays at meal time with the other children, and even says “mama” :). 

On Thursday I was told that this little guy was at the Baylor Pediatric AIDS clinic for a check up and while we didn’t get a CD4 count, his viral load was 179.   Not 179,000. Not 179 million.  Simply 179 … down from 10 MILLION!!

I love the scripture that says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  John 21:25

We are living and seeing those miracles every day at Project Canaan. We have seen the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and the very nearly dead rise up and jump for joy. 

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, shares it, prays for us and supports us financially.  HE is our provider and I am thankful to everyone who hears His voice and is called to be a part of His story.

Live from Swaziland … I just can’t contain my excitement today.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

I see you.

One of the things I love the most about Swazi culture and language is the greeting “Sawubona” (sa-woo-bone-ah).  It simply means, “I see you”.  The appropriate response is “Yebo” (yeah-bow), which means, “yes”, as an agreement that you have been seen.

They are three simple words that perfectly acknowledge someone’s very existence - I SEE YOU. In today’s busy world where so little of our time is spent relationally, I think truly being “seen” by someone is profound.

Our home for abandoned babies is called the “El Roi Baby Home” and “El Roi” (El–row-ee) is the Hebrew name for the “God who sees”.  That name is found in the story of Hagar in Genesis 16 (it’s a great story – check it out for yourself).

We chose it as the name for the baby home because it is the GOD WHO SEES the baby in the pit latrine who rescues the baby and it is the GOD WHO SEES who saves a child from being eaten by river crabs.  I often receive angry comments on social media where my readers are angry at the mother for dumping a baby or leaving a child on the side of the road or in a bus stop, but I find myself quick to defend those young mothers because I can only begin to imagine the level of hopelessness a mother must in to do such a thing to an innocent child.  I am quickly reminded that the GOD WHO SEES and saves those babies, also sees and wants to save the young mothers.

Baby Shirley’s mother is still in prison awaiting trial after dumping her newborn baby in a pit latrine and then dumping burning coals in on top of her to make sure she was dead. ( .

Shirley’s mother calls me every few weeks from prison to check in and see how Shirley is doing, see how I am doing and asks about the other babies.  I feel such empathy for this young woman who is living with guilt that is seemingly endless. But El Roi sees her too and I pray that her mind and heart will also be healed one day, just as little Shirley has been healed.
Shirley enjoying KFC ice cream - a "right of passage" when each child moves up to Emseni.

Healed and restored.
This week it was the El Roi who saw a young 18-month-old baby girl locked up alone night after night by her prostitute mother.  The baby would cry so long and so hard that the neighbors finally couldn’t stand it anymore and called the police. The police arrived at the broken down stick and mud hut and found the baby inside, eating her own feces.  We were called and that baby is now at the El Roi Bay home – HE saw her, WE see her, and her future is filled with hope and love.

I often wonder how many people really believe that God sees them?  Would we behave differently if we thought that God was watching us all the time?  Not in a critical way to catch us doing something bad, but in the way that a loving parent might watch their children play out in the back yard through the kitchen window, smiling with joy and pride. That might be something for you to ponder this week.

Live from Swaziland … it’s nice to be seen by The One who sees all.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

When feeling badly just isn’t enough

This week I was told about a family who lost everything they have in a house fire.  One of our staff lives in a rented single room with her five children (ages 4-15).  There is no electricity in the house so when the children were sitting on their foam mattresses doing their homework by candlelight, they accidently tipped the candle over and lit their homework on fire.  The fire quickly spread to the clothing, their school uniforms and shoes, schoolbooks, mattresses and anything else that could burn.

The children got out without injury, but the widows broke and even the door burned to the point that it cannot close or lock.   It was devastating for the family to stand outside and watch their earthly belongings go up in smoke. 

The next day, when everything was cleared out and the ashes swept, the family moved back in to nothing.  They slept on the concrete floor and stared up at the blackened walls, the holes in the tin roof and hoped that no one would try to come in and hurt them through the unsecured burned door.

Our Pastor and friend, Andy Stanley, often says, “Do for one person what you wish you could do for everyone.”  There is so much pain, suffering and tragedy here in Swaziland that Andy’s words are very helpful to take action when the weight of sorrow tries to shut you down and do nothing. 

Some of you know about my “Compassion purse” which is filled by friends from around the world and I use those the funds when I feel prompted by the Lord to do so.  Each time my purse is almost empty, someone comes and fills it up, without fail.  Last week our friend Pete Wilkerson was here and he handed me a wad of bills that he said a friend had given him before he left the US. The cash was to refill my compassion purse. 

I felt terrible for the mother when I heard about the fire, and I was heartbroken for the children who were carrying the guilt of the fire. But feeling badly isn’t enough.  Immediately we were able to send a box of MannaPack from Feed My Starving Children so that the family had food. We had a box spring/mattress at our Manna Distribution center that was available to give her and we were able to pull clothes for each of the children from the clothing that visitors have so generously donated.

I am so thankful for the funds that Pete’s friend sent because we were able to buy the school clothes and school shoes that they needed along with new foam mattresses for the children.  We were also able to replace the broken windows, and door and buy the wiring to get electricity in to the house to avoid future fires.  I am happy to say that we asked for volunteers from our own construction/maintenance teams to go on the weekend and fix the windows/door and install the electricity as their way of helping this lady. We provided the materials and they are doing the work for free. 

When you are faced with many people who need help, just do something for one person or family that you wish you could do for everyone.  Feed someone who is hungry, give a drink to someone who is thirsty, look around and see who needs clothes or even visit someone who is lonely.  That is what Jesus would do. 

If you would like to help refill my compassion purse for the next person in need, you can do so by clicking here in the US.

Live from Swaziland  … Happy Saturday!


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Knee surgery and Whoppers with cheese

Whopper with cheese for Valentine's day.  Delicious!
Ian and I have always enjoyed Valentine’s Day.  We take turns planning it – one year Ian plans what we do and the next year I plan it. That way we are surprised every other year and we can enjoy doing something special for each other.  Over the years we have eaten in the finest restaurants, stayed in the nicest hotels, traveled to exotic countries and given/received lovely gifts on February 14th.  Our celebrations have changed quite a bit in the past 10 years, becoming much simpler (and cheaper!) as our lifestyles have changed, but we still celebrate a day of love for each other and for our children.

This year it was quite different with Ian being in a South African hospital for knee surgery and me staying at a nearby hotel on a day that the African country’s corrupt leader was forced to resign.  But really, it was possibly the best Valentine’s Day yet.  Why?  Because Ian was in pain, and the surgery would take him out of pain (who doesn’t want that for their spouse). Because the hotel I stayed in had crisp white sheets, big fluffy pillows air conditioning and I got to eat a Burger King Whopper and French fries from McDonalds!!  (We don’t have either fast food chain in Swaziland, and I love burgers).

As I sat and ate my Whopper with cheese, alone, I thought of my friends Terry McGill, Linda Howard and Sandy Wise, all who have recently lost their life partners, and who didn’t get to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved one this year.  What would they give to be eating a burger in a hotel in Africa while their partner was having knee surgery in an African hospital?  Just about anything, I would imagine.  This knowledge made me even more thankful for our situation, while feeling heartache for my friends.

Ian with Pete Wilkerson as we arrived back on Project Canaan.
We have been married for 26 years, have lived in three countries and have 2+178 children.  We have laughed more than we have cried.   We have played more than we have fought.  We have lived complicated lives and simple lives (and we sure love the simple life better).  I will say that the Lord could not have given me a better life partner and we compliment each other in so many ways.  He is my rudder through smooth waters and through the storms.   His faith in God is unshakeable and that faith keeps many people who know him focused on Jesus, not themselves or their circumstances.

Proverbs 3:6-12 (The Message bible) says:

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.
But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under his loving correction.
It’s the child he loves that God corrects;
    a father’s delight is behind all this.

Happy Valentine’s Day Ian.  I love doing life with you.

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful.


PS - This is day #3 since surgery and Ian is walking without crutches and is in NO pain (no pain killers).  We give thanks for total healing!   Also, check out our brand new US website at!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Loving them back to life.

If you are reading this blog before 9:00AM EST, be sure to go to the Heart for Africa Facebook page at 9:00 AM EST sharp where you will be able to join our LIVE VIDEO feed of the Project Canaan Valentine’s Day party with the Emseni kids (age 3-7).  If you missed it, go to and scroll down to the video.

We typically have Kids Club at 9:00AM Swazi time on Saturday mornings, and each week the children rotate in small groups every 15 minutes through five stations. There is a theme each month and each station supports that theme including; a craft, dance party, physical fitness activity, bible story and bible memory verse.  

The entry door to Emseni 1
Today we moved Kids Club to the afternoon so that our friends and family from abroad (aka YOU) can join us!  Our theme today is “Jesus loves EVERYONE” and we believe that with all our hearts. 

Each February we focus on building monthly support for our children, and we call people who give monthly our “Heart for Africa ANGELS”. It is through our Angel support that we provide everything that each child needs from food to clothing, from vaccinations to medical staff, from 24 hour care to 24-hour love.  We simply can’t provide all that we do without our monthly donors.

I know that some people are critical of how we do things? Do the children REALLY need three meals and two snacks every day?? Do they REALLY need their own birthday cake?  Do they REALLY need such a low child-to-caregiver ratio (1:5 NOT including our full time cooks, cleaners, drivers and nightshift)?  Do the children REALLY need a pop up swimming pool?   My answer is yes. They most certainly do.
Happy 4th birthday TODAY Gabriella!  We love you.
These children have been put into our care and we are the legal guardians. Why shouldn’t they eat well (most arrive severely malnourished), be well cared for (most have been abandoned or abused), have their birth celebrated every year (so they know they are valued) and have a way to COOL DOWN in the Africa heat (no, there is no air conditioning).  For those of you who know Ian and I well, we want to do things with excellent, not half-baked.  And as we continue to serve the Lord in Swaziland, through these children, shouldn’t we do the best that we can do? 

Our theme for Feburary 2018 campaign is “Love 2 Life”.   Our monthly supporters LITERALLY help us to love each and every child back to life. 

If you read this blog regularly, or if this is your first time, please consider giving any size gift monthly to help us be able to continue caring for these children. 

In Canada you can become an ANGEL by clicking here.

In the US you can become an ANGEL by clicking here.

Thank you for helping us loving 179 children back to life.
Live from Swaziland … Happy Valentine’s Day!


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Let’s talk about the weather

Yesterday was a scorcher with a high temperature of 50C or 122F.  It was too hot to even get the air conditioning in my truck to get cold.  Our buildings are not air conditioned so when I went down attend Samantha’s 3rd birthday party, I wasn’t surprised to see all of our toddlers in shorts, no shirts, dripped with sweat.

I happened to have a box of 48 Icy Pops in the freezer for a rainy day (I mean hot day) so I took those down to the party. Each 2-year-old received their frozen treat by extending two hands, giving a little courtesy and saying some form of “thank you”. I LOVE how our staff teachers our children good manners and Swazi customs.

Princess with an ice pop in the pool.
After getting their treat they all headed into the sprinkler and/or kiddie pools to try to cool down.  It’s hard to explain heat and humidity that we experience here. Everyone moves slowly, intentionally, and you only do what you have to do.  And remember, I grew up in Northern Ontario, where we had snow from October – May.  I thought this pre-menopausal mama was just simply going to go up in a puff of smoke.

39 toddlers enjoying the sprinkler
At the end of the day an incredible storm hit with a lightening show that brought Ian and I out on to the patio to watch (like watching fireworks, complete with “ooh’s” and “ahhh”s), and the dogs hid under anything they could find.  Then the hail started, plants knocked over and we had to move inside because the rain was horizontal.  And last, but not least, the power went out at around 6PM.  The power is still out as I write this, and we are thankful for our generator that has kept our lights on and our refrigerators cold.

February is Valentine’s Day month and we have a treat for you! Next Saturday, February 10th at 9:00AM EST (that is 4:00 PM Swazi time) we are inviting you to celebrate Valentines day with the children at Project Canaan through a live streaming party.  If you read my blog of last week you will know that we now have unlimited high speed internet, which will allow us to do this (  I will be streaming live from the HEART FOR AFRICA Facebook page and then I will repost the video on my personal page when the party is finished.

Did you know that in February 2017 more than  $18.2 billion USD was spent on flowers, candy and cards for Valentine’s Day loved ones according to the National Retail Federation?  Would you consider reducing your Valentine’s Day spending on friends and family and becoming a monthly donor to support our 179 children?  Maybe you would consider a one-time gift?  Your gift helps us love our children back to life. 

To give in theUS click here.

To give in Canada click here.

I hope you will join our Valentine’s Day party next Saturday, February 10th at 9:00AM EST – Janine Willis Maxwell Facebook. 

Live from Swaziland … we are always grateful for rain.