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Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's the little things

As I had my quiet time this morning I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving for this incredible adventure that the Lord has invited us on.   As I sat and contemplated what makes it so amazing, I realized it’s not the baby rescues, or witnessing health miracles, or seeing people come to faith, but it’s really the little things that make our new lives so amazing.

It’s the sheer joy in Peter’s face as he splashes around the swimming pool to stay cool on an "Africa-hot" day.

It’s an early morning message from a young mother at the Kibbutz, thanking me for being a role model to her as she navigates raises her son.

It’s little Moses sitting beside me at snack time and tapping me on the arm and with the biggest smile saying, “Mama, I am sitting beside you”. 

It’s watching our children play on their new swings for the first time (thank you Jacob Banta!)

12 new swings between Emseni 1 and Emseni 2

Shirley on the new swings
It’s watching one of our Aunties carry rolls of paper towels the traditional way - on her head.
The challenges we face here are huge and the work is seemingly impossible. Just living in Africa is not easy with differences in language/culture/religion/history, but finding joy in the little things makes every challenge, every set back, and every tear worthwhile.  I encourage you to look for joy in all the little things around you today – it can change your worldview, and your world.

James 1:2-4 reminds us to,  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Live from Swaziland … trying to stay cool on a really hot day.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why do Christians do that?

Wendy turned 2-years-old this week and she is just now starting to walk.  We are encouraged.
This week I had several very disturbing conversations with government officials and Heart for Africa volunteers who told me about people “trash talking” the work that Heart for Africa and Project Canaan is doing in Swaziland. For those of you who English is not your first language, the dictionary definition of “trash talk” is “insulting or boastful speech intended to demoralize, intimidate, or humiliate someone insulting especially an opponent in an athletic contest.” 

We are not in an athletic contest, and they are not speaking these words so that we can hear them, they are doing it behind our backs, spreading rumors that are far from the truth, and criticizing every level of how we are serving God. 

The part that was most disturbing is that these trash talkers are people in Christian Ministry here in Swaziland.  It’s not just one that was reported to me, it was several, and it was people who have never been to Project Canaan, never met us and have never been a part of what we are doing.

Why do Christians do that?  Jealousy?  Pride?  Lack of self-control?  Or they are just plain mean-spirited?

When I told Ian I wanted to write this blog, but didn’t want to sound whiny, he suggested that I confess that I have had to put on my “big girl panties” and realize that people are people, and we are to love them anyway.  But the fact that the garbage is coming from people who profess to be Christians who are also serving in Christian ministry in a foreign land, made it a bit harder for me.

As I was trying to identify the emotion I was feeling I realized that it wasn’t hurt, it wasn’t personal offense, it was purely confusion as to the motive behind such talk.  What’s in it for them? Do they not know that Jesus hears their words, and he sees their hearts? 

The bible tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up”. Let us all try to encourage one another this week, and always.

Live from Swaziland … enjoying a hot Saturday with the Project Canaan kids.


Saturday, January 6, 2018


Happy New Year - I thought I would start you off with a fabulous video of some of 
our Swazi children singing this morning!

I love the first week of January.  We typically get to spend it with Spencer and Chloe, and in recent years, on a beach in Durban, South Africa overlooking the Indian Ocean.  We enjoy much needed family time (often only being together once a year), “down time” from work and time to think about, and pray about the New Year.

Then, the weekend before we go back to work (this weekend), Ian and I sit at with our laptops making plans for the New Year while we pray for God’s wisdom for each and every decision we make.

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But here’s the thing that we have learned about our plans.  We can make well thought out plans, we can write good strategies and come up with the clear tactics to achieve our goals but we must also be aware that God’s plans are not our plans, and we must be ready to be flexible and submit.   That requires quiet time, listening time, prayer time and being intentional to not only listen, but also to obey.
A good example of a bad plan. 
For those of you who are followers of Jesus, are you willing to give this a try in 2018?  If you do this, I promise it will change your whole life.  But beware! People will think you are crazy because you are not spending money where you used to spend it. You are not hanging out with the same friends you always hung out with. You are not listening to the same music, or watching the same shows or on the same websites that you once were.  But that is okay. 

Isn’t it time for change?  Isn’t it time for better plans?  Isn’t it time for a new life?

Oswald Chambers wrote, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….” Your choice must be a deliberate determination— it is not something into which you will automatically drift. And everything else in your life will be held in temporary suspension until you make a decision. The proposal is between you and God— do not “confer with flesh and blood” about it (Galatians 1:16). (For the complete article go to

Are you ready for a New Year?  I am. 

Live from Swaziland … Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

If I knew then, what I know now …

If I knew in 2005, when we were first called to volunteer in Africa, that I would be mother to 179 Swazi children, I would have said, “No!”  I would have said it was impossible.

If Ian and I had a crystal ball back in 2005 and saw that we would be living on a 2,500 acre farm in Swaziland, would be legal guardians to 179 Swazi babies, be responsible for 280+ employees and managing a feeding program for 3,200 children each month, I would have run to the closet and completely shut down.  I truly believe that neither of us would have said YES to the calling.  

We are not super heroes, we are not super Christians, some days I don’t even think I am a very good person.  I get frustrated, angry and don’t always respond the way I should.

But God knows us and He calls us in a way that we will hear and know His voice.  For us, He made Africa an adventure.  It was a fun, frustrating, invigorating, intriguing, challenging and addictive adventure. And we love adventures. 

I have told you this before, but so many people think we are saints, and have sacrificed so much.  Our long-time friends and our children can assure you we are not. But people also think that if Ian and Janine had not moved to Swaziland, then the 179 children who live here might be dead.  I respectfully disagree.
I truly believe that if we had chosen to stay in our comfy life in Toronto with a big house, nice cars, great income, private schools etc that it is us who would have missed out.  I truly believe that the 179 children who are alive and well at Project Canaan today would still have been rescued, because God would have chosen someone else who said, “yes”.  And we would be stuck in a world that no longer gave us joy or hope.

My head spins at that thought.

I think Chloe has claimed Holly as her own (and River has claimed Chloe :)
I love watching Spencer with little Christina and baby Ivy.
My message to you today is this – what are you missing out on because you are focused on you or your family, and not on the one who has an amazing adventure for your life serving Him?  What are you missing out on because you are afraid to say “yes” to a nudging that you are feeling?   Following Jesus is not easy and who knows, maybe He will even ask you to move to Africa (hahah).

Joshua 1:9 says, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Is 2018 your year to be strong and courageous?  I hope so.  You will never regret it.

Live from Swaziland … living in His strength and courage.


Please consider making a year-end gift to support our continued work in 2018. 

To give in the US please click here.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Newborn twin girls arrived today

What do you do on your Christmas family holiday?

 This week has been a busy one, but with the perfect rhythm of winding down for Christmas. We picked up Spencer and Chloe at the airport in Johannesburg, did our last minute Christmas shopping in South Africa, hosted a Christmas party with the Project Canaan staff and had our celebration dinner for our Kindergarten and Primary school students who excelled in school last semester (complete with KFC,  Root Beer floats and the Grinch).

Today I planned to do welcome some special visitors, go to Kids Club, do some last minute wrapping and food prep for some family favorites. Mid day I got a call that stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of why we are here.

The caller shared the sad news that there was a set of newborn twin girls who were born on Tuesday at home and whose mother died suddenly last night. The police and social welfare were involved with the case and were dealing with a hysterical old Grandmother who was left mourning the death of her daughter and knowing that she could not possibly care for the newborn twins. She was extremely poor, living in squalid conditions. I was asked if we could take the babies? I said “yes”, and hopped in the car with Spencer and Chloe to go pick them up.

These little ones will be our 9th set of twins (!).  As they are “Christmas babies” we have named them Holly and Ivy. They will also carry Swazi names, naming them after their mother and Grandmother.  They bring our baby total up to 178 (receiving 32 in 2017).  These two little girls are the sweetest little babies, weighing 2.4KG (5.2 lbs) and 2.2 KG (4.8 lbs). 

Thank you for coming along in this adventure with me each week. I love that together we can celebrate birthdays, new babies, and miracles.  Equally I appreciate that together we can mourn the loss of children, pray for very sick children and share the frustrations of security issues and crime.  In all of these things, we give thanks to the Lord for His provision and steadfast love.

As I often say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful that you are a part of our village.

PS Please consider making a year end financial gift to help Holly and Ivy and their 176 brothers and sisters.

In the US click here.

In Canada click here.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Live from Swaziland … I am at peace.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Naughty or nice?

Leah and Rachel
For those of you who follow me or Heart for Africa on social media you will know that I have been posting Christmas photos of all of our children this week as we all count down the 12 Days of Christmas.  Day one was our eight sets of twins, day two our siblings, day three our tiny babies and our “cry babies” (the ones who didn’t enjoy the photo shoot) and day four was our biggest miracle children.

Today I am posting our “naughty and nice” list, but I will leave it to the viewer to identify who is who.  Anyone who has met any of those children will automatically know which one is which.  I’ll give you two in this blog as a teaser.  



It is so fun to watch the personalities of our bigger kids evolve as their language evolves.  From Titus coming up and whispering, “I like your hair”, to Emmanuel asking if Ian is going to bring his airplane (drone) today.  My favorite of last week was Moses at the End of Year Awards when he leaned over to me and quietly said, “Teacher Amber is going to say ‘Moses’”.  He was SO EXCITED that Amber was going to say his name out loud for all to hear.  


We definitely have some naughty children (some of our twins are the worst), but what we do see is that they are also VERY smart, potentially bored, and definitely strong willed.  I love that our leadership team can also see that, and we work together to help each child develop to their potential, create their own identity, while disciplining with love.  That wasn’t an easy job with only two children, and it’s exponentially hard with 175, but I can honestly say that the Lord is our strength and He is guiding and directing us all.  Without Him we can do nothing.

It is year-end giving time friends, and I ask that you consider making a year-end gift so that we can continue to give the individual attention that is almost impossible in an environment like this.  Please join our village and help us raise these children to be all that God is calling them to be.

To give a gift in the US please click here.

To give a gift in Canada please click here.

Spencer and Chloe will be home in five more sleeps.  I love seeing the young adults that they have become and can’t wait to hear of their adventures since we were together last.  Serving the Lord ain’t for sissies and I am eternally thankful for the support that both of our children give us each and every day.

Live from Swaziland … time to fill the fridge!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Good - a giant sandbox for dozens of children to play in.
I almost titled this blog “A day in the life of the Maxwell’s in Swaziland”, but it was a bit too long.  I wanted to share a quick peak in to the good, the bad and the ugly of our week.

What was good this week?  We built two large sandboxes for our Emseni children to play in.  This will provide hours of fun while we are working on building swings and a giant playground.

A second sandbox in the Oasis playground.
What was bad this week?  Our little 3-year-old Enoch fell and broke his leg.  Even with wonderful caregivers and lots of attention, boys will be boys. We are thankful to have access to a great orthopedic doctor, and that Enoch didn't need surgery.

Bad - a 3-year-old with a broken leg.
What was ugly this week?  It started with some beautiful rain for many, many hours, and ended with a significant chunk of the retaining wall at our Primary school collapsing.  We see the error in our design and will terrace the wall as we rebuild.

Ugly - retaining wall collapses from heavy rain run off.
There is never a dull moment, nor is there a boring day when living on a farm with 175 and 270 employees.   Today I am asking for you to consider making a year-end gift to help us continue this important work in 2018. 

To give in the US please click here.

Thank you for your love and support.  I am thankful for our global village that is helping us do this work.

Live from South Africa … we are on a mission with a shopping list of needs for our children.