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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why are people so nasty?

Aphiwe and Brooke
We have the opportunity to squeeze 240 boxes of diapers and wipes in to a 20ft container in Canada that is coming to us filled with donated educational supplies.  We don’t want to ship the container with any empty space so we have actively been asking our Canadian friends to shop at Amazon in Canada and buy diapers and wipes to fill the container.  We have received 90 of the 240 boxes that we desire.

We needed a place for those diapers to be shipped and a dear friend agreed to have them shipped to her school, but they could only be there for a week due to limited space.  So another friend said she would be happy to borrow/rent a truck, go to the school and pick up the boxes and store them in her garage until the time of packing the container.  I love my friends.

I was so thrilled to see how smoothly this all happened with many people offering their assistance.  I saw photos on Facebook of the diapers being loaded in to the big box truck and volunteers happy to be involved.  It made my heart happy.

Then there was the Facebook comment.

Right below these happy photos was a comment (I have permission to share this) that read “Why are you sending those diapers to Africa when you should be sending them to the flood victims in Quebec?”

Honestly, I was shocked.  And I know I shouldn’t be because people post stupid comments on social media all the time, but really??  Why should you send diapers to orphans in Africa who don’t have parents to care for them?

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I love that when tragedy or natural disasters strike we have a country where family helps family, neighbors help neighbors and communities help communities. Many of us also have the opportunity to purchase insurance and then there are our Provincial and Federal governments who quickly jump in to help those in need.  It may not be perfect (and yes our taxes are high), but I am proud that the system works better than most.  When there is a problem, Canadians know that help is on the way.

I am now living in a country where families have nothing to give other families. Babies are dumped in out door toilets to die because young mothers have no food or even a blanket to wrap them in. Children die of malnutrition and neglect, right in front of our eyes, because we just don’t have the resources to save everyone.  In fact, just this week we saw an 8-month-old in our own immediate community die and we will have to bury him on Monday.  (Note, this is not a baby who lives at our baby home).
I am thankful that there are people who are helping my neighbors in Quebec who are in need, but to the lady who posted that comment … I hope you are actively involved in helping in Quebec, not just sitting on the sidelines taking pot shots at others trying to help orphans in need.  Furthermore, stop being so nasty.

For those of you who support Heart for Africa and the children of Swaziland, I say THANK YOU.  For those of you who want to buy diapers for these babies I ask you to shop today in the US at  and in Canada at  We are only half way to our total goal.

For those of you who support other charities, ministries and organizations either financially or with your time, I THANK YOU!   There are a lot of people who need a lot of help around the world. I encourage everyone reading this today to get involved SOMEWHERE. It could be in Quebec, it could be in Swaziland or it could be right in your own community. 

It takes a village to raise a child. Please be active in your own village and for a very small group of you, please stop being critical of people for helping in a different village.

Live from Swaziland … thankful for all who can help us.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

When a wave of sadness hits.

Early Mother's Day photo with 76 Emseni children, 40 Toddler home children and Spencer. 


Two days ago I was overwhelmed by a wave of sadness.  We dropped Spencer off at the Johannesburg airport (after 8 wonderful weeks with us in Swaziland) and while I only shed a few tears at that moment, I got a message before we left the airport that our sweet kitty from back in our Aurora/Alpharetta days, had died.  Her name was Daisy, and she was a stunningly beautiful Bengal who we have missed dearly.

The tears started to flow, but then the phone rang. It was a social welfare officer asking if we had room for three small babies? There was an 8-month-old baby who had been hospitalized for malnutrition and abuse. Then there were two siblings who were being badly abused by their mentally disabled mother.  The 10-week-old baby boy would be thrown on the floor when he cried and the 2-year-old girl was being abused as well. 

I told her we would take them all, hung up the phone, and it hit me.

A wave of sadness washed over me like a tidal wave and I was completely overwhelmed by Spencer and Chloe living a million miles away, my dead cat (who hasn’t lived with me in five years) and the 157 children whose stories are horrific and haunting.  I sat in the passenger seat and cried, while Ian drove us east to the ocean and the sun set behind us.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and as the day approaches I am thinking about these things:

·      I am thankful for my 15-year-old birth mother who gave me up for adoption in 1963.
·      I am thankful for my adoptive parents (Bernice and Russ Willis) who gave me every opportunity in the world and showed me how to give generously and love completely.
·      I am thankful for my children, Spencer and Chloe, who have made me the proudest mom in the whole world. They give generously, and love completely.
·      I am thankful for (and overwhelmed by) by the 157 Swazi children who now call me Mom. 

Last Sunday at Children’s Church I was presented the most amazing gift by the staff and children at Project Canaan. They knew I was going to be dropping Spencer off in South Africa, and then head away for a quiet weekend in Durban, so they gave me an early Mother’s Day gift. It is a painting of tree that has each and EVERY SINGLE child and baby’s thumb print.  In the bottom right corner you will see the color legend that shows which colors represent which children’s home. 

There are 155 little thumb prints that make up this beautiful painting.
Yes, I stood in front of them all and cried, but they were not tear of sadness, rather they were tears of pure joy.  I stand amazed at the mosaic of circumstances and people that the Lord has brought together to create the most beautiful picture at Project Canaan, and I am humbled to be a part of it.

Please shop on the Heart for Africa Amazon Baby Registry today by clicking on  in the US and in Canada.  We have a lot of babies who have been given the gift of life, and now they need the gift of diapers, wipes and a table to eat at.  Please shop generously, and maybe buy your mom a gift for Mother’s Day too! I promise she will love it!

Live from Durban… Happy Mother's Day.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

That's a load of 💩!

Two weeks ago I got the dreaded call. It was Helen saying, “Mom, we are completely out of diaper wipes!”

What? How can you have 155 babies and run out of wipes?   We change 400+ diapers a day, and we sure don’t want to do that without wipes!  YUCK!

I knew Ian was in town and so I asked him if he would mind stopping at the grocery store and get some wipes. He asked how many, and I said “ALL OF THEM!”.  Within a few minutes he sent me a photo of the “wipe section” at the grocery store and asked if I really wanted them all.  My answer was, no, but get all the big packs.

We have not had to buy diapers or wipes since August 2016 and that is because 300+ people from all over the world shopped on Amazon and purchased 165,000+ diapers and 170,000+ wipes.  We still have some diapers, but the wipes are finished.

We currently change 400 diapers and 1,600 wipes each and every day.  That means 146,000 per year and 584,000 wipes!  That’s a lot of poop!  AND, those numbers do not include days that our babies have diarrhea or when we have a stomach bug whip through the house!  Believe me, you really don’t want to be here then!

Today we are launching our 2nd annual Diaper Drive and I am inviting you to be a part of this important project.  It’s as easy as clicking on this link and shopping!  The shipping address on our Amazon Wish List is a warehouse that has been donated by a friend of Heart for Africa, so your purchases will come straight to our warehouse.

The UPS Foundation has very generously offered to ship a 40 ft container for FREE from Atlanta to Swaziland and it will be packed at the end of June.

We hope to fill the container in the next 3-4 weeks and get it over to Swaziland.  The Amazon list also have a few key items that we need and cannot buy in Swaziland, including two tables that each allows us to feed eight little ones at a time.   We also are looking for a few Little Tykes playhouses, that give our kids hours of activity and “old fashioned” play each day.

Will you help?  Please shop today, and then if you live in the US please copy this link and post on your social media sites to invite your friends to be a part of this great need.  

If you live in Canada, please share this link with your friends and family.  Every purchase helps us reduce our monthly expenses here in Swaziland.  I

f you would like to collect diapers in your community and bring them to us in Georgia, please contact and feel free to use this simple poster.

Ian and I both shopped at before I posted this blog.  I hope you will too.


Live from Swaziland … praying for diapers and wipes!


Saturday, April 29, 2017

How much is too much?

Caleb eating Ian's home made ice cream at our house.
Today I am in a bit of a funk.  I feel stuck between two worlds, and I am not sure how to live in both of them.  How much is too much when it comes to the children whom we are responsible for, especially when there are so many children in the country (continent/world) who have nothing?

Let me tell you a story.

During my first trip to Kenya, I remember having the BRILLIANT idea of hiring a refrigerated truck, driving to Nairobi and buying huge buckets of ice cream and then serving it to all the children at the Mully Children’s Family home in Ndalani. None of them would have had ice cream before and I wanted to give them a real treat, just as I would treat Spencer and Chloe.  When I shared my big idea with Mr. Mully, he very graciously suggested that maybe the children would enjoy some meat instead.   Duh. Yes, meat.  That was a much better idea, and something that they did not get often. Their father knew what was best for them, and I learned a valuable lesson that day.

We are now raising 155 Swazi children and everyone who comes to visit has an opinion on how we should be raising them.  Not a single person is raising 155 children themselves, but none-the-less share their thoughts with as many of our staff and volunteers as they can.

We have been accused of raising spoiled rich kids because our children have a plethora of push toys and Little Tykes play sets to play with.  We have been accused of turning the home in to a “Disney Land” because we have hand carved stone statues around the buildings.  We have been told that we are feeding our children too much, and that they would never get that much food if they were living back in their homestead. I would like to say that we have heard it all, but I am sure we have not.
"Aslan" the lion is our school mascot. This stone was carved on Project Canaan with stone found on the farm.
This week Ian, Spencer and I were running errands in town and we stopped in to a store that sells commercial kitchen supplies.  My eyes immediately went to a large soft ice cream machine. That would be wonderful for our children!  I think it could even make frozen yoghurt (that we make ourselves from the milk from the dairy).  

We have 155 children now, with 65 full time staff members, and many many volunteers/guests throughout the year. I am sure visitors would be happy to pay for ice cream (and maybe even buy it as a treat for our children from time to time). But the cost of the machine was $1,600 USD.  I would never ask a donor to buy an ice cream machine, but I would certainly consider buying it myself?  Why? Because I often bought Spencer and Chloe ice cream as a treat, and these little ones are our children too.  But it’s much harder to take 155 children to town for ice cream than it was to put two kids in the back of my car. 

Levi, Hope, Caleb and Joshua enjoying Ian's ice cream.
But here’s the rub.  There are children all over Swaziland who have no food.  They have no meat.  They have no one to care for them or provide safety. So why should our children get soft ice cream?  Isn’t that exactly what the nay-sayers are saying to us when they point out our “extravagances”?

When I told Ian that I was struggling with this today, he reminded me that God has told us that He is doing a “new work” on Project Canaan. He has entrusted us with these young lives, and we do believe that we are raising the future leaders of this nation. But does that mean that they should get soft ice cream when others don’t get meat?  I don’t know.

So today I am in a bit of a funk.  I have one foot in a country that I love, where poverty and orphan-headed-households surround us, and the other foot is with 155 children, who I want to give all that I can to give them a wonderful childhood and set them up for success as adults.

Live from Swaziland … wondering, how much is too much?


Saturday, April 22, 2017


The past few weeks Ian and I have noticed that we have been able to breathe much better. It’s not the air quality, it’s not the humidity levels, it’s called “margin”. 

We have been living in Swaziland for almost five years and for most of those five years we have been in full on building mode.  We started with farming and worked tirelessly to install drip irrigation, build dams, clear farmland, train workers and find channels of distribution.

Then the first baby, Joshua, arrived.  And babies started arriving more and more frequently, with a current five-year average of a child arriving every 12 days.  This not only required us to continue building homes for the children and staff housing, but also schools, a medical clinic and focus on training in the areas of health (among the many things HIV/TB and severe malnutrition), nutrition, childcare and child development.

For many who have been here they will agree that we are building a “city on a hill”.  For those of you who may remember the game “Sim City”, it’s kind of like a real life version of that.  It’s not just putting up a building or two (on a mountain side in Africa), but it’s planning for roads, electricity, water access, septic tanks, transporting people, sourcing and storage of materials (building, food, diesel, supplies etc).

Building a city on a hill (technically a mountain).
This is ALL new to Ian and me. We are not land developers, we have no experience in city planning and we did not grow up in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland and therefore know all the ins and outs of working here.  Did I mention that this is ALL new to us.  But we have the Master builder, the Master planner who is directing our path.

Last year was a very hard year for us personally, with people working tirelessly to tear us down. It was fraught with a lot of criticism, judgement, discouraging words and downright evil intentions.  There were days that I felt like giving up, but we had a couple of key people (you know who you are) who stood with us and carried us when needed, to get us through. Satan is alive and well and he is here to kill and destroy.  THAT I know for sure.

This year, I feel that we are now breathing fresh air AND we both have margin in our days.  We are not running frantically anymore because the “building” phase of Project Canaan is complete, and now we are in the “development” phase.   Yes, we still have buildings to build (ie the 2nd grade classroom is being built this month), but we now have more time to think, plan, train and develop our people.

I’ll give you three quick examples of what I am talking about:

1.     Our Lusito Mechanics shop was always in “quick fix” mode with many vehicles needing things fixed due to the bad roads or conditions here.  This week is our third year having Rick Cogbill and our friends from Mercy Tech in Canada doing intense training for TWO MONTHS to teach our guys preventive care, proper repair as well as organization, planning and controls.  The students were ready and the teacher appeared. 

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill

Photo credit: Rick Cogbill
2.     The Emseni Campus is where our big kids live. Our Aunties and Uncles have done an amazing job in caring for, disciplining and loving our children. But we now have 74 children between the ages of 3-6 living at Emseni and it is a monster job.  Today starts a one month school break, which now requires significant planning to keep those 74 (who would have been in school each day) active, engaged and loved.  Then comes Bryan Throgmorton, who has taken on the position of Program Director.  He works intentionally to create a plan with our senior staff to engage our children in all areas of spirituality, physical fitness, arts, music, drama, chores, reading and more so that their time is well spent and the children continue to thrive.  In addition to Bryan, the Lord sent Margie Brewer to us from the US. She is not only an experienced Social Worker with her Masters degree, but she has lived in Swaziland for ten years and is helping us bridge the divide in child rearing between the western way and the Swazi way.  Truly gifts from heaven.

3.     Our Khutsala Artisans shop has expanded and the building has doubled.  This has allowed us to not only hire more local people, but also has given us room to properly run a business of it’s size.  We now have a room to store all of our beads and wire in an orderly fashion, allowing us to manage supply chain better.  We have a meeting room that allows Supervisor meetings, private conversations for HR, people who need counseling, discipline, discipleship or a word of encouragement.  Another room provides the right space for daily counts, production tracking, packing, shipping and invoicing.  Spencer has been here working daily on computer training, designing easy-to-use packing slips and invoice systems that support the existing software program.  I cannot explain the joy that I see on the faces of our leadership team with all this happening. 

Why am I telling you all this? It’s to say that Ian and I have room to breathe now. We have many of the right people in the right place and so we don’t have to be directly involved in (or worry about) every single part of this city on the hill.  Frankly, there is no way that we could.

Heart for Africa and Project Canaan are SO MUCH bigger than Ian and Janine Maxwell.  I am just thankful that we have been given the opportunity to play a small role in this big plan and that so many of you have also stepped up to play your part.  The African proverb says that it takes a village to raise a child. I am thankful that you are a part of our village. 

Live from Swaziland … I love margin.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

These children are an oasis to my soul.

On Thursday night there was a gathering of our staff and volunteers up at the dining hall that we call “The Oasis”.  It was named The Oasis because it is where we go to be fed and watered and where life is given to everyone who visits. Thursday night we gathered for Holy Communion, and again, received the gift of life. 

The room was dimly lit and at the front of the stage was a wooden cross, handmade by our maintenance team.  In front of it was a wooden Nigerian bed (random information), which held the elements that we would consume. From the back of the room a beautiful Swazi voice started singing, the others rose up to join in harmony to make sounds seem like they must be coming from heaven itself.  

The warmth of the evening, the darkness of the room and the sounds of African voices immediately took me back to a time where I was at the Mully Children’s home in Eldoret, Kenya.  It was bedtime and the young children gathered for a time of song and prayer.  When they started to sing, I was swept up by the power of the small voices that joined together to make a sound that sent shivers up my spine and tears down my cheeks.

So often people thank me for “saving” the children of Swaziland, and I am quick to point out that it is not me who is saving anyone, but it is God who has brought us in to this role, and so many others who provide support for the children.

But it was in the sounds of African voices on Thursday night, with tears pouring down my cheeks once again, that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this work is NOT my work or Ian’s work, it is only God’s work.   This work, or calling, is impossible.  The number of children is growing (we have 155 children as of today), the scope of the farm is expanding, the responsibility that we have for the children, our staff of 280+ people and our 16+ volunteers is immense, and it is overwhelming and impossible without God.

Tomorrow is Easter and our children have been preparing for this for weeks.  Even at their young age, they will perform a play with the entire Easter story (including the death on the cross and the resurrection).  
Last week's play showing Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey.
Easter in at Project Canaan is not about Easter bunnies, Easter eggs or a large display of chocolate. Swazi’s teach their children, at a very young age, about the bloody death and glorious resurrection of Jesus.   Our children will eat special eggs for breakfast, will have a braai (lots of grilled meat) for dinner and baked goodies during the day.   They will sing “Hosanna Hosanna”, jump up and down being silly and will undoubtedly bring joy to any and all who are with them.  

The children are themselves an oasis to my soul. 

Tomorrow is the most exciting day of the whole year, and I am eternally grateful that I have been chosen to be a small part in a very big story of salvation, transformation and life.

Happy Easter from our family to yours.

Live from Swaziland… He has risen indeed.


PS - If you believe in what we are doing and want to help, we really are in need of financial assistance at this time for our children.  If you can give on a monthly basis or even make a one time donation today, we would very much appreciate it.  Thank you.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Our smallest baby yet – Baby Peace.

Baby Peace (left) is 5-weeks old and weighs 2.7 pounds.  Baby Amanda (right) is 2-days old and weighs 5.3 pounds.

During the first three months of 2017 we welcomed five babies to Project Canaan.  In the last three days we welcomed FOUR more (with another arriving on Monday).   It seems that children arrive in ebbs and flows, but we are in a time of flow right now.

Yesterday afternoon I was called to pick up a baby whose mother had been leaving him at home alone for 9-10 hours at a time.  Social Welfare officers had taken him to the hospital and after he had been discharged we were to go pick him there.  When we arrived we found a teeny tiny baby boy, who was five weeks old, weighing 1.7 kg (3.7 lbs).  He was SO tiny!

We brought him home and immediately took a photo of him lying beside baby Amanda who had arrived the day before.  Baby Amanda is almost 2-days old (weighing 2.4 kg or 5.3 lbs) in the photo and Baby Peace is 5-weeks old. 

My friend (and premmie baby expert), Annie Duguid, heard about the little baby who had arrived and immediately sent me a message suggesting that we try to find a nursing mother (who is not HIV or Hepatitis positive) to give little Peace some much needed mothers milk.  She explained that because his mother was HIV positive, he would not have gotten natural immunity from her. In addition, prematurity gives low immunity and he would need extra help until his own immunity kicks in around 9-months of age.

Well, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that information/suggestion/request, but I stopped and prayed about it. Immediately, Maria Koopmans came to mind. Maria and her husband Arlyn have been volunteers with us for the past 4+ years and Maria just gave birth to their second child.  I sent her an early morning text message (yes, I felt very awkward), and she responded immediately that she would be happy to provide some of her breast milk for our new little one!  I couldn’t believe it!  Not only that, two hours later she was at the baby home giving him a bottle of her own milk.

I really had “a moment”.  I can’t think of a more beautiful gift for a woman to give a child in need.  It truly is the gift of life.  Thank you Maria for your love, your sacrifice and for sharing your breast milk.  (Never thought I would be writing that sentence).

It takes a village to raise a child, and I LOVE the village I am a part of.

Live from Swaziland  … today is a great day.