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Saturday, July 22, 2017

We never thought this would be possible! (And an update on baby Jonathan from last week).



You have all read about the containers that have been filled in the US and Canada and shipped to Swaziland. They are typically filled with diapers, wipes, books, children’s toys etc.

BUT, this past week packed a container here in Swaziland, to ship to the US!  Yep, and it wasn’t filled with diapers or wipes, but it was chock full of handmade Christmas ornaments, beaded animals, key chains and jewelry, all made at Khutsala Artisans at Project Canaan!  Our timing was perfect and our July volunteer team was here to pray over the container before it was sealed and sent to sea.

In 2013 we had the idea of producing an ornament each year that we could make and sell in order to help us with our goal of sustainability.  The first year we sold 1,200 angels. In 2014 we added a colorful tree and sold 8,500 ornaments.  In 2015 we added a star and sold 13,500 ornaments. Last year we added a beautiful purple ball and sold a total of 32,500 ornaments (!!!!).  Not only did we provide employment for the 100+ people, we were able to generate 30% of the total operating costs for all of Project Canaan. HUGE.

The 2017 Heart for Africa Christmas ornament is absolutely stunning and combines our beautiful bead and wire work with a new SwaziMUD ceramic bead, made from clay right here on Project Canaan.

2017 ornament with red and silver glass beads with a SwaziMUD ceramic bead.
All five ornaments are available.
We have also produced all five ornaments in all an all white "Snowy Collection"
Here’s our challenge.  It’s all well and good that we have produced 70,000 assorted ornaments and shipped them, but if they don’t sell, we won’t be able to continue to employ the workers here, AND we need to find another way to raise funds to raise our 162+ children.
Whity and a very full storage room.
Today I am writing for your help.  I am looking for people to be Heart for Africa Ambassadors and help us sell the ornaments to friends/family/co-workers, or use them for your personal gift giving.   

2017 Ambassador Teams
Platinum – 1,000 +
Gold – 500+
Silver – 250+
Bronze – 100+

Each one comes in a beautiful organza bag with a cute information card in each one.

I know it’s July, and this seems like a really strange time for me to be writing this blog, but the container has shipped. It will arrive at our warehouse in Ohio at the end of August and we really need to have our sales teams ready to go. 

Will you help us today?  If yes, please email Kim Evinsky at kime@heartforafrica.org or me at janine@Heartforafrica.org and we will get you more information.

Baby Jonathan update – if you didn’t hear about our almost 2-year-old boy who arrived weighing 14 pounds, please go back and read http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/07/i-refuse-to-be-angry-and-i-refuse-to-be.html .  On Thursday we took him to the Baylor Pediatric AIDS clinic to have him tested for TB and they hospitalized him immediately. He is a very sick boy. His viral load count is 10 million.  He is being treated for malnutrition while we wait for his TB results. If he has TB, we then wait to see if he has Drug Resistant TB.

This little guy is still happy, but his prognosis is not good. He is another good reason for you to get on board and help us sell ornaments (while you pray for him). It’s so much easier than asking for donations to help care for our children.

I ask again, will you help us? Please?

Thank you.

Live from Swaziland… praying for a miracle for little Jonathan.

Janine

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I refuse to be angry and I refuse to be afraid.




Last week I was angry, as you may have sensed in my blog.  Our house had vandalized, my computer stolen and trust broken. Thank you all for your emails, calls and messages of support. I apologize that I have not responded to many of you, but alas, I have no laptop.   A new one is arriving with my friend David on Monday and then I will start to catch up on two weeks of work.

These past two weeks have been a real journey in our faith.  Neither Ian nor I are fearful people. Heck, we moved to Africa, right?  We have never been afraid in Africa, we have felt safe and protected in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland, but after our home was vandalized things changed.

After the break in we wouldn’t leave the house without closing the gates and turning on the electric fencing.  We started to hide electronic devices after every use, and our nights became restless, filled with dreams of snakes, polar bears and cars sinking in deep lakes.

Fear is not of the Lord, and each day we would spend time in prayer and in the Word rebuking the fear that had come over us, but we are human, and it lingered.  And we were angry.

I don’t like feeling angry and I really don’t like feeling afraid. Those are two of the absolutely worst emotions for me personally, but we prayed, and prayed and prayed.  I am not sure what happened late last week, but my anger went away, I chose to forgive the thieves who violated our space and it seemed that by releasing my anger, fear was taken away.

In the midst of this emotional and spiritual battle we had three little boys come to live at Project Canaan. All of them arrived severely malnourished.  Little Jesse is 1-year-old, little Barry is 11-months-old and little Jonathan will be 2-years-old on July 27th.  All three are developmentally delayed, but Jonathan, who arrived yesterday, is in the worst shape.


Jonathan weights 6.5 kg/14 pounds (and yes, he is almost 2-years-old).  He is skin and bones, has a weeping ear infection, a fever, HIV/AIDS related bumps/lumps and skin lesions.  His hemoglobin is 4.9 and his teeth are rotten and disintegrating.  


As I reflect back on my last two weeks, I can’t help but give thanks that I have the privilege of being here in Swaziland and to be chosen to drive and pick up each of these little boys.  I have the privilege to pray over them, cry over them, care for them and love them back to life.  I also have the privilege to care for and love the Aunties and Uncles who do the heavy lifting each and every day.

Fear and anger are not welcome in my life.  I have been freed, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Living aboard is hard at the best of times, but as I often say, living in Africa is not for sissies.

Live from Swaziland … driving to Johannesburg to pick up Chloe from the airport!!!

Janine

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Our home has been vandalized




Last Sunday while we were at Children’s Church with 159 orphaned/abandoned children and our staff, our house was vandalized.  They tried to get in to Chloe’s room using a crowbar, but the steel doors only bent, they did not break open. Then they moved to the kitchen window, which is made of shatterproof glass, and viciously attacked the window, only to find no latch on the inside to open it. Then they tried another steel window and final destroyed the doors to our living room and entered our home.

They opened every drawer, looked in every cupboard, obviously in search for money, but there was none.  They left the house, doors wide open, taking my laptop, another laptop, a chainsaw out of the garage and a few other useless (to them) items.

We are quite certain that this was an “inside job”, and that perpetrators know us very well, and know our dogs very well. We have reported this to the Police, the Chief and the Community Police.

Since this happened my world has been turned upside down.  I guess I am still in shock, but I am not dealing with this well. My brain is stuck in a spin cycle of trying to understand why people would do this. Why the violence? Why the betrayal?  And now the whole community has started in the spin.  People are pointing fingers at each other from the Supervisor level to the gardener.  Everyone has a theory, an accusation, a suspicion and everyone is angry about the attack on us. 

Ian put out a substantial reward for the capture and conviction of the thieves and the return of our laptops. This has caused havoc in the community, with people crawling on top of each other to point fingers.  The traditional healers (some might call them Witch doctors) are busier than ever with individuals seeking “muti” (special potion to bring strength, knowledge, power) so that they can be given a vision as to where the laptops are and then be able to collect the reward.  We have even heard that one department at PC has taken up a collection of funds to collectively go to the Witch doctor so that he can help them find our laptops and the vandals. 

As a a follower of Jesus, and as someone working in Christian ministry, I can’t even begin to get my head around this. Many of the people involved in this are also followers of Jesus, but, I guess, want to cover all their bases in the return of our valuables? 

I am frozen.  My head feels like a computer screen that has frozen.  It needs a hard shut down and reboot, but I don’t know how to do that. 

I am rarely at a loss for words, but I can’t yet find the words to express how I am really feeling.  Betrayed, hurt, discouraged, angry, heart-broken, despondent?

As I have spent most of the week alone and in prayer, I also know, with all my heart and soul, that God saw the thieves, He allowed them to break in to our home, and He knows where they are now.  He sees their hearts and He weeps for them, just as He weeps for me when I screw up. 

We were protected (we weren’t home at the time), and Jesus is still securely on the throne. 

Police and social welfare officers tell us daily that the crime rate is escalating in Swaziland.  This was predicted by the former Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland when he told us that he feared the day when the tens of thousands of children who had been orphaned a decade ago would become teenagers and young adults.  They would have no moral fibre to keep them on a good path, no jobs to support themselves, no love to keep them safe and no hope for their future.  He feared what would happen then.

Someone asked me this week, “How could ‘these people’ do this to you when you are here doing all these things for them? You give them jobs, love, food, clothing – why would they bite the hand that feeds them?” 

My response was quick (in fact so quick that it surprised me).  We are not here to serve the Swazi people or the Swazi children. We are here to serve God, and Him alone. He has given us a hard assignment, and one that does not come without sacrifice and danger.  But He is our protectors, always.  And for that we give thanks, and go on.



Please pray for me, for Ian, for the safety of our children, staff, volunteers and please pray for Swaziland.

Live from Swaziland … I am not sleeping well so this blog is a very early post.

Janine

PS – thank you to the friend who quickly contacted me and offered to replace my laptop. I love you, always. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Who would have thought?

Who would have thought? (Circa 1984)

Who would have thought that a little girl, affectionately known as “Janny-Lynn Willis”, born to an unwed 15-year-old girl in Northern Ontario, Canada in 1963, would grow up to become the mother to 159 Swazi children? 

Who would have thought that Janny-Lynn would be sent off to boarding school, where she would meet a young man whom she would marry 11 years later, and he would grow up to be the father to 159 children?

Who would have thought that God would bring together a girl with a mind for marketing/communications with a boy who had a mind for number/operations, have them run a successful marketing company for 16 years, and then send them to Africa to start a home for abandoned babies and farm?

Who had even heard of Swaziland, Africa all those years ago?

We often say, “We can’t make this stuff up”.  And we really can’t. 

The Message bible translation of Jeremiah 1:5 says,  

 

“Before I shaped you in the womb,
    I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
    I had holy plans for you:
A prophet to the nations—
    that’s what I had in mind for you.”


Isn’t that cool??

Today is Canada’s 150th birthday, and while I was only 3.5-years-old when Canada turned 100, I distinctly remember the “theme song” that played over and over on the airwaves.  “Ca-na-da … (one little, two little, three Canadians), we love thee (now we are 20 million)” and on and on it went. (I had to Google it to prove it to Ian - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18-oRTLIe3I).  

Ian thinks it’s very funny that I remember a jingle from 50 years ago – clearly the Lord designed me in a certain way, and “knew all about me”.  He knows all about you too.  Isn’t that cool? What is asking you to do today?  What has he been asking you to do for a while, that you have been putting off?  As the old ad says, “Just DO IT” – otherwise you will miss the blessing that He has in store for you. 

Who would have thought that we would be celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday in Africa with our 159 Swazi children?  Not me, that's for sure. 


Live from Swaziland … Happy birthday Canada!  My home and native land.

Janine

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The sounds of Saturday morning

Beth has done a beautiful job coloring the red sea.
We love weekends on Project Canaan. The farm is quiet as only the children’s campus staff is at work.  Saturday starts the same as every other weekday for the Maxwell’s, sitting in bed with a cup of coffee overlooking Project Canaan.  Ian and I have our time of quiet prayer, devotion and scripture reading and then we move along with the day.

Saturday’s are extra special because at 9AM the beautiful sound of tiny voices begins to float up the mountaintop, notifying us that KIDS CLUB has begun.

KIDS CLUB was designed for the children who live at the Emseni Campus (our big kids) and any other children living on the farm who are in preschool or above.  The children are divided in to groups and move through five stations, shifting every 15-minutes.  It’s a fun-filled morning that includes a craft (two different ones dependent on age groups), singing/dancing, a race or physical activity, bible story, bible verse memory time.


The idea of this is to teach the children the bible story that will be presented at church the following morning, and help them understand what the story is about.  By acting out part of the story, making a craft with the story theme, hearing the story read, memorizing the bible verse and then dancing and singing about it, children’s church on Sunday becomes much more interesting and engaging to the children.



This was the brainchild of our volunteer Program Director, Bryan Throgmorton, but is fully executed with the entire Emseni staff, with support from our long term and short-term volunteers.  The 75-minute club ends with a fun snack and is followed by free play.


I LOVE the people whom I refer to as our “CARE TEAM”.  The Care Team comprises of anyone who is directly involved in caring for our children and includes Aunties, Uncles, Gogo’s and big brothers.  Ian and I are “mom and dad”.  In siSwati we are called Make (pronounced Mah – gay, which means mother) and Babe (pronounced Bah-bay, which means father). 

We are thankful for our Heart for Africa summer interns!
Our goal is to intentionally make this our children’s HOME, and not an orphanage.  Part of that intentionality is being focused on each child developing their own personality, individuality and identity. KIDS CLUB is one of those activities that helps allow our children to express themselves in different ways, and I spend my Saturday mornings watching, listening and laughing as they bloom in front of my eyes.

I am so proud of the people who God has brought to us to help raise these children and for all of you who support us financially and prayerfully.

Live from Swaziland … I love Saturdays on Project Canaan.

Janine

Saturday, June 17, 2017

This week’s health issues and surgeries



It’s hard to explain life on a farm in Africa, let alone life with 159 children under the age of seven.  There are so many moving parts, so many facets, and so many complex elements involved in raising these children, that even people who come and stay for an extended period are still learning many months after their arrival.

Today I want to share four specific medial issues that we navigated through this week (among many other day-to-day issues including HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, two sets of head stitches and common childhood illnesses).  I will only use the first letter of each child’s name, in order to protect their privacy.

1.     “B” came to us severely malnourished and we noticed an abnormality in his index finger.  We surmise that his finger was broken as a small baby and it never healed properly.  There is a piece of bone in the top part of his finger and a piece of bone in the bottom, but nothing in between, so the bone on the top is not growing.  The surgeon was very concerned about it because without reconstructive surgery, his finger would need to be amputated in the future. This week he went in for surgery, where they removed some bone from his leg and used it to attach the bones in his finger together.  The surgery was more complicated than expected and we are still awaiting a report from the surgeon. Sadly, the patient/parent/doctor communication system here is not always ideal.
2.     (Age appropriate reading on this one) “S” arrived severely malnourished and abused.  We quickly noticed that he was missing his testicles and took him to a specialist, who was unable to locate them.  He is almost 2-years-old.   We were able to get him in for a Bilateral Orchidopexy (here in Swaziland) and while in surgery they discovered another problem in that area, which required him to be circumcised.  The surgery went well and he is home with us, healing nicely.
3.     “L” is 4-years-old and in good health, but has a reoccurring infection up near her ear that ends up bursting with pus oozing out. We are told that it is an “extra sinus cavity” that continues to get infected and will require surgery. This week our Doctor was on the property and was able to lance it (YUCK!!!).  Now our goal is to get her infection free so that we can proceed with the surgery. 


4.     “M” is our most disable child. He was born to a 14-year-old girl and then left in a rural clinic for many months. After a few days of him being us we realized that something was very wrong.  He is 10-months old and has seriously neurological challenges, and doesn’t swallow properly. We suspect this is due to Cerebral Palsy, but until he gets older, and hits (or misses) developmental milestones we will not be able to properly diagnose.

To quote the movie Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”.


I feel that way about our children. Each baby who comes to us is a new gift, full of surprises, sadness and joy all in one sweet little package. 

Thank you to everyone has given to our Emergency Medical Fund in the past. I will say that the account is now empty, but we know that the Lord will provide again before our next medical need. If you want to give to our Emergency Medical Fund in the US click here.  For donations in Canada, please click here.

Thanks for taking the time to read about all that is happening at Project Canaan each week. I am grateful for your support, fellowship and love.

Live from Swaziland … preparing to host friends from three countries for dinner!

Janine

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Is raising children "women's work"?



Sharing with Dad is important
Next Sunday is Father’s Day and as Ian is father to Spencer and Chloe and also 158 little Swazi children, Father’s Day has become a greater time of reflection for me each year.

I was raised by a wonderful man (Russell Willis) who adopted me (with my mom Bernice) when I was just a baby.  He raised me as his own and provided me with food, shelter, education, opportunity, discipline and love.

I often hear comments about the children at Project Canaan not being raised in a “normal” home with a “real mom and dad”, and how they will suffer because of that.   I find it shocking each and every time because what is “normal” nowadays?  How many people in Canada or the US are being raised by their biological mother and father?  And even when children are raised in a “normal” home, that doesn’t mean the home is healthy or happy. 

I was reading a blog article by Dr. Gail Gross she said, “ Only 20 percent of American households consist of married couples with children. Filling the gap are family structures of all kinds.” 

In 2011 a stat said that 72% of all Swazi children do not have a father in their lives.  I can’t imagine what the current statistic is. 

As many of you know, our eldest children at Project Canaan are 6-year-old twins, Rose and Gabriel.  Each day we are learning and growing as our children grow. Raising 158 is very different than raising two (or six).   Our focus when the children are small babies is primarily health, nutrition and love.  As they get older their emotional, mental and spiritual development becomes more important. 


On thing that remains the same is that we strive to be intentional in everything we do.  We are now reviewing parenting courses that can help us with not only training our staff in how we want our children to be parented, but also forcing us to make parenting decisions all over again!  What is important in THIS culture that may not have been important in Canada in the 1990’s?  What was important to us as we raised Spencer and Chloe that is irrelevant in Swazi culture?  And how do we have fun with our children and our caregivers?

Tickle fights with Dad are important!
My point of today’s blog is that no two families are the same. We all parent differently.  We are all doing the best we can with what we have and what we know.  Our family looks very different than any other around the world, but we are doing the best we can, with what we have and what we know, to raise God-loving, God-fearing children who will contribute to society and change the face of a nation.  God is our heavenly Father and He is the perfect father who never ever lets us down, and we are secure in that knowledge.

I am so grateful for Ian who is a wonderful father to Spencer and Chloe and being intentional to be a Godly role model for our other 158+.  I am grateful for the Swazi men who God has brought to us to be big brothers and uncles to be positive role models for our children.  And I am grateful for our male volunteers (single and married) who are investing in the lives of our children and showing them what Godly men look like.

Having fun with Dad is important.
Raising children is NOT woman’s work. It takes a village to raise a child, and a village requires men and women to be strong and courageous together, whether they have been blessed with one child or a village of children.  Raising children is not for sissies either, it is hard work, all the time, so let us encourage one other, and build each other up, not tear each other down.

One more thing – we have added some educational tools and materials to our Amazon Baby registry. Feel free to shop for books, textbooks, teaching aids and, of course diapers and wipes.  US shoppers click here.  We are no longer accepting items for the Canadian container as it ships next week.  Canadian shoppers will need to access the US site please.   THANK YOU!

Live from Swaziland … I am thankful for the men in my life.

Janine