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Saturday, October 14, 2017

What did I see in their eyes?

Hand carved Zimbabwean statues for live auction.

I have been told that we make it look easy… this “missionary thing” … afterall, how hard could it be? Moving to Africa, abandoning your family, building a house, buying a car, opening a bank accounts (actually that one still hasn’t been possible), figuring out telecommunications, managing with slow-speed (expensive) internet, and doing it all in a local language that seems almost impossible to learn.  How hard could it be?

It’s hard. Really hard.  Nothing is as it appears to be. The people we trust betray us.  The safety that we feel is false-safety. Spencer and Chloe, and family, are far far away, and a host of people sit on the outside looking in, watching to see if we are doing things right or wrong.  But of course, they are not “judging”.

But nobody REALLY wants to hear about all that, so when asked how we are doing, we stick with “It’s all good”.  And really, it IS all good, except for the bad parts.

On Thursday we had wonderful evening with so many dear friends at a Gala event in Georgia that was designed to raise money for Heart for Africa. By all accounts, the golf tournament, dinner and silent auction were a huge success, raising over $100,000 to help us raise our 167 Swazi children.  As each familiar face arrived at the event I was encouraged by their presence, knowing that we really aren’t alone doing what we do.  Each one made an effort to come and see us, support us financially, and encouraged us to continue doing His work.

BIG thank you to former Board Chairman, Rick Bishop, for hosting the successful golf tournament again this year.

Congratulations to Rod McLure and team for winning the golf tournament.
We are celebrating five years living in Swaziland. FIVE YEARS!  How could it be five years when it feels like we are still finding our way around?  During the event the Chairman of our Board of Directors, Chad Gregory, asked us what the biggest change was in the five years since we moved to Swaziland. I responded with “weight gain”, but alas that was not really the answer he was looking for :). 

I went on to share that the biggest change is trying to get our heads around being the mother and father to a rapidly growing family.  Without even thinking about it I found myself sharing the challenges (and fears) of raising children who have HIV/AIDS (making sure they get their life-saving medication twice a day) and tuberculosis (keeping them in isolation until they are no longer contagious).  Then there are the many children who are on special diets to help them “catch up” on their weight, after suffering from extreme malnutrition and neglect, and then there are the ones who arrive with broken bones who need immediate care, and the ones who were dumped in outdoor toilets (pit latrines) and arrive with head trauma/lung infections and even burns.

I choked up while talking about our little girl named Phephile, who came to us with a broken tibia and fibia along with signs of 6-7 historic breaks in her arm, I looked out across the room and saw many tears in many eyes. What did I see in those eyes? They were the eyes of people who love us, who care about those children, and who are asking themselves how they can do more to help Heart for Africa?
Thank you Jeremy and Raelenna Ferguson for traveling from Missouri to show their love and support.
Those are our friends who “get it” and they were there that night to REMIND me/us that they “get it” and that they want to help.  No sitting on the sidelines.  They were there to encourage us, and hug us, laugh with us, and cry with us and remind us that even on our darkest days when it feels like we are all alone, we are not alone.  They are with us in spirit and in prayer.  I got a huge boost of energy from their smiles (and tears), which rejuvenated me and encouraged me to take on another day.

Taylor and Sandra Green always volunteer and attend our fundraising events. Thank you Green family for your love and support
Yesterday we flew to the west coast of Canada and will attend the “Celebrate HOPE” in British Columbia tonight with more friends and family who are truly committed to supporting us.

I have no doubt that today’s blog will be my least read and least shared because there is no drama or craziness in it, but that's okay. I wanted to make sure that I took the time to let you know that I am thankful for each and every one of you and I pray for you and give thanks to the Lord for your lives.

Live from Vancouver … today is going to be a very busy day of meeting, but it will also be fun.

Special thank you to Chris Cheek for all her work making this event a huge success and for her son Joey to be serving by her side.  We are thankful for this special family.

PS – we have THE MOST AMAZING US staff/Board and volunteer team at Heart for Africa. Thank you all for making Thursday night magical for us all.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The only thing you can spend money on that will make you richer.

When I was a child I had the privilege of traveling with my parents.  I’ll never forget our first big trip to Asia when I was in 7th Grade. My mom’s sister was a missionary teacher in Japan in the late 1950’s after the war, and died unexpectantly from a malignant mole the same year I was born.  My mom wanted to go and see where her sister has served, plus my cousin Dawn was living/serving  in Japan at the time, so off we went. This blue-eyed, blond-haired, 12-year-old was quite a novel sight in 1976 traveling from Asian country to Asian country.

It was on that trip that I caught a bug.  The travel bug.

My parents had no idea the size of the gift they gave me on that trip – it was the gift of seeing the world, learning about new religions, new cultures, new sights, new sounds and they introduced me to the flavors of the world. 

On the wall of the Project Canaan Academy preschool there is a Dr. Seuss quote that says, “OH the places you will go”.  I can’t even begin to imagine the places that our 167 children will go as they learn and see new things, hear new sounds, taste new flavors through their home, education and life on Project Canaan.

Ian and I are on a whirlwind trip that had us land in the US on our 26th wedding anniversary (October 5th).  Just after we landed I received a message that a beautiful 5-week-old baby girl had safely arrived home to Project Canaan. Her mother is 20-years-old, already has two children and one was born paralyzed.  She had no money for food, medical care or clothing and begged Social Welfare for help.   The baby, whom we call “Happiness” is home.  Oh the places she will go.

The hotel room that we slept in last night had an interesting pillow on a chair in the room. It read, “Travel is the only thing you can spend money on that will make you richer.”  I completely agree.

As I sit on an airplane flying to Toronto and on to Ottawa to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with Spencer, Chloe and Ian’s family, my mind wanders back to the day that my Aunt Margie heard the call to move to Japan.  It was her obedience (and death) that prompted my mom to want to go to Japan.  That introduced me to a world I would never have otherwise known about and a love for people, diversity and desire for understanding.

If you have been hearing a still small voice telling you to “go”, just do it.  Your life will change and you just might change generations to come.

Live from Atlanta … enjoying happiness from travel and celebrating baby Happiness.

PS - Travel does not come without many frustrations. This morning we stood for 30 minutes while a TSA agent very slowly and methodically pulled out each and everyone one of 50+ rolls of camera film from a travelers zip lock bags and SLOWLY wiped each one completely and then checked the swab for residue.  The line backed up, people were baffled, but there he was just "doin' his job". With the last one he took off his gloves and walked out of the security area and went on his break (I guess). Another agent resumed with the next traveler. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mental illness and our babies. Please read this to the end, and share.

This week we received two more babies, both came to us because their mothers are mentally ill.  The first child lived on the streets of Manzini for the first 18-months of her life. We call her “Beauty” because that is what her Swazi name means, and she is beautiful. She was not fed, not bathed, not cared for and ended up in hospital before Social Welfare could rescue her and send her to a place of safety.

Two days later we received baby Mandy whose mother is also severely mentally ill and has spent the last two months sneaking in and out of a government hospital, sleeping under beds, in closets, stealing food to survive etc.   Mandy’s mother was volatile and the hospital and social worker called the police to be involved when the baby was taken for safe keeping.

If I were to guess, I would say that close to HALF of our 166 children come from a mother with some kind of mental illness.  Let me give you a few specific examples of cases with our children and how each case is so different and so sad:

  • “H” comes from a mother who was not born with psychological challenges, but she started having epileptic seizures (or “fits” as they say here) and they went untreated for most of her life, causing her to become mentally challenged by her late teen years.  “H” has no signs of epilepsy and is a bright, smart child.
  •   “M” comes from a teenage mom who was a happy healthy child until her mother died of an HIV/AIDS related illness when the girl herself was 9-years-old. M’s mother had been caring for her mother for several years and contracted HIV by being in constant contact with her mother’s blood and body fluids. The family decided not to tell her that she was HIV positive nor did they start treatment.  In 2013 she was very sick and went to the hospital only to find that she was HIV positive. She had a strange moment of happiness that she had a connection with her mother because she got the HIV from her, and then had a complete psychotic breakdown, and has never been mentally stable since. 
  • “Q“ comes from a mother who was on treatment for HIV/AIDS and possibly TB and had adverse reactions to the medication.  Anti-Retroviral Treatment  (ART)can be very hard on a person’s internal organs and even with proper nutrition and protein there can be many side effects that can affect a person’s personality. We even see that with some of our own children who are on ART and we have to be extra sensitive and supportive to them when we see them struggling.  Baby Q’s mom didn’t have anyone to support her so she would leave the baby alone for days, destroy neighborhood property and was eventually admitted to the National Psychiatric Hospital, which is where we picked up Q.
  • “M” comes from a mother who is mentally disabled and her Grandmother is also severely mentally disabled. I met them both.  We were told that it was a family where there was a lot of incest and we can see that “M” herself shows signs of the family health history and we will be challenged with her for her life.

The reason I am telling you all this is because the situation of baby abandonment and dumping is escalating here.  We need more help to care for the children and we have found an easy way for YOU (yes, you who read this blog each week, but aren’t certain if you want to get involved or how to get involved) to GET involved. And we want to make it easy for you, without asking for a donation.

The 2017 Heart for Africa Christmas ornament is our most beautiful yet. It is a beaded red bell with a handmade ceramic bead on the bottom made from authentic SwaziMUD.  The profit from every 25 ornaments sold provides everything one child needs for an entire month!  That includes food, medicine, clothing, electricity, caregivers and lots of love. Not only that, but the 110+ people who make the ornaments can feed and provide school fees for their own children.

Today I am looking for 50 people who will commit to selling 50+ ornaments to their friends, family, school, community group, church.  There are five different designs now and each one comes in a beautiful organza bag with an informational card.  We have also created the entire ornament line in a “Snowy collection”, for those people who decorate an all white Christmas tree.

Please email me at or our North American Sales Director at TODAY if you want to get involved.  Your friends and family will be starting their Christmas shopping soon so let’s make sure they are shopping with a purpose this year.  This could also be a great service project for you kids. 

Live from Swaziland … is it time for you to get involved?


PS Our ornaments will also be available in smaller quantities at as well, but today we are looking for Ambassadors to help us help more children.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

49 children relocated

Ian walking with Simon and Ricardo up to Emseni 1 from the toddler home.
Today was a big day at the Project Canaan Children’s Campus.  49 children moved UP!   Our third Emseni building is now complete (we call it E3) and we moved 26 “big girls” moved out of E1 and up to E3.  That opened up space for 12 toddlers to move from the toddler home up to E1.  That opened up space for 9 babies to move from El Roi to the toddler home.  That opened up space for one baby (Peace) to move from Kuthula Place to El Roi. Whew! That was a lot of movement!

26 big girls moving to Emseni 3
12 toddlers moving up to Emseni 1

9 babies moving to the toddler hom.
Our homes have been chock full for a while and were pushing hard to have the E3 building complete.  Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who gave so generously to build the new home for our big girls.  We now have 89 children living up at the Emseni Campus (23 at E1, 40 at E2, 26 at E3), 37 at the toddler home, 33 at El Roi, and 5 at Kuthula Place.

In last week’s blog I shared that we are very short on monthly funding for our children.  In response we were contacted by a dear friend and supporter (who would like to be anonymous) and she said that she would match up to $15,000 (sponsoring SIX children) for anyone else who would also step up and make a one time gift to help us catch up?  This is a huge answer to prayer for us.  Are there six of you out there who would make a $2,500 gift today? Or perhaps 12 of you who could give $1,250?  Please take action today and help us provide a loving, safe home for a child who has been abandoned or orphaned.
Miriam loves her new house and bed.

To give in the US click here.

To give in  Canada click here.


Live from Swaziland … today is a BIG day at Project Canaan.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Droughts, hurricanes, wars and rumors of wars – who can really save us?

Greetings from Durban, South Africa where I am sitting over looking the Indian Ocean.  We are here celebrating Ian’s 52nd birthday and taking a day or two to reflect on where we have been, what we are doing and where we are going.  We have 164 children living at Project Canaan now, and the responsibility of that weighs heavily on our shoulders.

As far as my eyes can see, I see water, and it's beautiful and powerful and awe-inspiring.  It seems that water has been at the center of conversation for us for a very long time now.

Last Saturday we were glued to the TV, like so many others around the world, watching for surging ocean water as Hurricane Irma moved north through the Caribbean and on in to Florida.  The week before we watched helplessly as Hurricane Harvey dumped 33 trillions gallons of water on Houston and other parts of Texas.  During that same week we had a conversation with a vegetable farmer from the Cape Town, South Africa area who told us that their rainy season had just finished and their dams were only 1/3 full. He told us that Cape Town (and surrounding farms, wine country etc) will run out of water before the rains come next year.

I have always heard that water is life, but why does it seem that water can be life-giving and life-taking all at the same time?

While I don’t understand why God allows droughts, floods or hurricanes, I do believe that HE is the only one who can make it rain (or not), and I believe that He is the only one who can save any of us from disaster. I don't understand a lot of what God allows/does and doesn't do and I sure don't understand why He doesn't STOP many of the things we see from happening, but that is not for today's blog.

On Thursday we got a call from a Social Welfare officer about a 3-day-old baby who was found in a plastic bag, hanging on a branch of a tree.  The child was still covered in blood and his umbilical cord was tied with an elastic band.  A passerby heard the child cry and called the police.  Why did God allow that?  I believe that God is the only one who could save that child’s life. The mother could have dumped him in an outdoor toilet (where 30+ of our other children have started their lives), or lit him on fire (like two of our children), or strangled him and dumped him in a garbage can (like one of our children), or left him in the river to die. BUT she didn’t. Something in her had mercy on that small baby. Something whispered to her spirit to give him a chance, and she did.

As I sit and look at the Ocean and give thanks for my husband’s life and this journey we are on, I am stopping to ask you for help.  While it is God who saved each of our children’s lives, it is us who must feed, clothe and care for them, and He invites people to be a part of that journey with us.  This is difficult timing because SO MANY people need financial help to recover from the disasters that have recently struck.  We do not get government funding to raise these children. We are 100% donor funded, and without more help from monthly donors we will have to say “no” to a baby who has been dumped or abandoned.  Please, will you help us today by becoming a Heart for Africa Angel?  Or even make a one-time gift to help us help a child?

To give in the US please click here.

To give in Canada please click here.

We can’t control the rain, the wind or the weather, but we can do something about helping a child in need.

Thank you for considering my request today.

Live from South Africa … the ocean brings me peace.


PS In other news, we have a lead on who was involved in the break-ins on Project Canaan. This "Wanted" article was in the newspaper yesterday. We pray that the thieves will be found and prosecuted.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Nothing is easy here.

Yesterday was a typical day on Project Canaan.  We were up early, Ian took two visitors to see the water project at the top of the mountain while I drove around the farm delivering things that were brought from the US for various departments and people. Then I headed to the front office where I was to meet the 40 ft container at 9:30 AM.  After many phone calls, we were told that the container should already be on Project Canaan. It was not.  Sadly, it was stuck on the bridge to PC, requiring an emergency call to Denis and our JCB to get it up the hill.

By the time we opened the doors it was 12:15 PM, and the temperature hit 98F outside (and approximately 115F inside the container).  We were short staffed, didn’t think to bring drinking water, and three hours later we had hand-bombed the entire 40 foot container.  We were dirty, stinky, dehydrated (although Helen came to our rescue with water about 2.5 hours in to it), but IT WAS LIKE CHRISTMAS DAY! And we had some of our big kids there to help us, which was really amazing to see how hard they worked.

Not only did we receive 131,926 diapers and 398,322 wipes (!), but also bed sheets and mattress covers, beautiful new towels, bicycles, wagons, tricycles, playhouses and a wonderful care package from Spencer (it’s funny the crazy things that we miss, like good saran wrap, SOLID WHITE TUNA and Triscuit crackers).  THANK YOU THANK you to each and everyone one of you who shopped, donated, sorted and packed this container full of love for us and our children, and thanks Spencer for the box of goodies! 

Now to the “nothing is easy” part (not that unloading the container was easy).  This morning Ian and I went down to start to sort out which toys/play sets go to which building.  The very first priority was to assemble the two feeding tables that hold 8 babies at once, thereby getting 16 children up to a table rather than eating in bumble seats on the floor.  Ian and Anthony opened the boxes, and guess what?  The company sent the wrong legs for the tables.  Rather than being a normal table height, the tables are 15” off the ground, not even allowing space for the seats to be inserted! 

WE ARE IN SWAZILAND, AFRICA.  We can’t just call the company and have them send out new metal legs for two tables that we need to feed 16 children.  Sigh. Nothing is easy here. Fortunately we have a carpentry center and welding equipment along with talented people who should be able to help us get the tables to be functional while we sort out how to get the legs to Africa. 

After packing the tables back up we went to see some of the children playing with the new toys. Of course, there is much assembly required for many of them, but the climbing tunnels were popped open and filled with excited toddlers, the assembled wagon was full to the brim and little Jonathan went crazy over his own personal rocking horse (in his TB isolation room). 

I will be posting more photos in the days to come, but wanted to be sure to say thank you today for all of your love and support.

As I write this blog I have the US news on TV.  Please know that we are praying for the people in Texas, we are praying for people in the Caribbean and praying for the people of Florida as Hurricane Irma makes its way to land.  May the Lord protect everyone in its path.  Nothing will be easy there for a long time to come.

Live from Swaziland … we are thankful.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

We all have special needs

This week I spent a lot of time watching the individual development of our children.  We continue to work on making this a children’s home, and not an orphanage, and that requires being intentional about individual care and development.

I cannot tell you the joy that I got from seeing that  in practice this week. I will share a bit about a few of our most challenged children.

Morris is 13-months old and is very developmentally delayed.  He was abandoned at a rural clinic by his teenage mother and lived there for 6-months with little to no touch, stimulation or love. He cannot hold up his head, and while first receiving a diagnosis of severe Cerebral Palsy, we are now not so certain about that diagnosis. Our Occupational Therapist (OT) was working with him this week and identified a slight spasticity in one arm, but otherwise his biggest challenge is not being able to hold his head up. BUT look at the photo below of him with the exercise ball. He LOVES doing his neck exercises and we are seeing a huge difference his stability already.   I love seeing the Aunties cheer him on to lift his head and everyone claps to encourage him. 

Barry is also 13-months old and is developmentally that of a 5-month-old.  When I first saw him I thought he was blind because of how detached he seemed to be from his surroundings.  His mother was very neglectful and would leave him for days a time by himself, just lying on the floor. He had more abuse and neglect than love and positive human touch.  This week our OT noted that he is responsive to toys, music and TV, but not responsive to the human voice or touch.  We are beginning his daily therapy, which will include a lot of touch, massage and love.  I can’t wait to see this little guy in the months ahead.

Barry working on some exercises to help him sit.
Jonathan is 26-months old and still can’t stand.  He is cognitively smart, has quite the “attitude” when he doesn't get his own way, but loves to play.  Also, this little boy LOVES meat!  When we bring him a meal that doesn’t not include meat he gets angry. So, of course I said, “Let the boy eat meat!”.  You may recall that he only weighed 13 pounds when he came to us at the age of 2-years, but now he is almost 20-pounds!  Go Jonathan go!

Jonathan being assessed by our OT
 Princess is 3+ years old and is still not walking, but she sure wants to. She was off to a bad start with severe malnutrition, TB and related diseases.  Now we are working to put muscle on her tiny legs and challenging her to get her hands working so that she can put square pegs in square holes, and round pegs in round holes.  She works SO hard on her exercises and we are encouraged each and every day.

Princess working hard with her hands.

For the rest of our children we focus on individual childhood development plans. This week during school break the children worked on motor skills development, which included everything from paint-by-number to visiting the Kufundza center to hammer nails into wood, turn screws in to wood and even get to pull down on a drill press to make holes in wood.

Jacob and Allen teaching the kids to hammer and screw.

Gabriel doing paint-by-number
I am so thankful for an amazing team of people who are so commitment to each and every child.   Yesterday I was on a long drive to pick up out newest baby (#163) and our volunteer Program Director, Bryan Throgmorton, came along.   We had fun talking about so many of the things we love about so many children:

·      How Paul loves to say “thank you” for random things that he appreciates.
·      How Titus will tell me that he likes my hair.
·      How sweet Moses is when he runs over and gives a big hug.
·      How funny Caleb is when he gets his dance grooves on.
·      How sweet and happy Phephile is now, when 2-years ago she arrived with a broken femur, tibia and as a very angry and hurt child.

Our newest baby whom we are calling Bryan.  He is 8-months old.
Each and every child has a special need, just like each of us has a special need.   While we cannot  know about or provide for all of them, but I can rest in the knowledge that their heavenly Father knows them all and sees it all, and HE is our provider.

This full rainbow appeared last week and went from the Emseni chilren's campus to Dam #2.
Live from Swaziland … my heart is filled with joy.


PS – no updates on the break-ins. Nothing at all.