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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. 


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Cue the calf

Cue the calf.
 When I was in the marketing business, we had an in-house photo studio and we did a lot of food and product photography. That was the “easy” part, but photographing children was always the hardest photography to do.

A few weeks ago we had the idea of setting up a manger scene (down at our dairy of course) and get a nice photo of an angel looking over baby Jesus in the manager.  We could have one of our cows in the background and it would be perfect.

We chose Rose for the angel role as she is beautiful and always does what she is asked to do.  Then I went to get our smallest baby boy to play the role of Jesus. I was quickly told by the Supervisor that I had to take baby Mercy because “she is really pretty, always smiles” (and is a favorite in a place where we are not to have favorites!). I didn’t really have a choice, so took the baby I was handed.  It was not lost on me that our baby girl called “Mercy” was taking the place of baby Jesus.

Down to the dairy we went and our young volunteer Jacob came to help put the calf in the shot.  The 3-day-old calf wasn’t interested in participating, and 6-year-old Rose didn’t think that our request to allow the calf to suck her whole hand to keep him there was reasonable.  Thus, we had Jacob put the calf beside a reluctant Rose, and then jump out of the photo (with the calf running after him).  Then “perfect” baby Mercy started to cry because she didn’t like the prickly straw poking her and the calf was not happy about the crying baby. 

All in all, we did this quickly and efficiently so that we have some really cute photos for our year end giving campaign.  Here are a few cute photos for my wonderful blog readers.

"You want me to put my hand in her mouth?  Nope."  Rose

Speaking of cute … have you see the really cute key chains that we make here in Swaziland and sell at  This weekend we are offering 25% off all stocking stuffers (including our beautiful jewelry made with our own handmade SwaziMud ceramic beads).  Just use the promo code STOCKINGSTUFFERS and shop away!   If you want to see some of our 100+ artisans making the beadcraft check out this awesome video

Every dollar you spend helps us support the 175 children living at Project Canaan.  Yesterday we received 18-hour-old baby “Helen” to the family.  She might be the cutest part of this whole blog.

Thank you for thinking of us as you prepare Christmas for your family and friends. 

Live from Swaziland … 19 more days until Spencer and Chloe come home!!


Saturday, November 25, 2017

A bitter sweet day for me, and a gift for you.

Thursday was a really hard day.  We were asked to bring a 6-day-old baby boy to Project Canaan whose mother died two days after his birth.  The boy was born on the floor of a stick and mud house where his young mom lived with her parents and 13 other people. The baby’s father is nowhere to be found, his family is very poor and there is no food, no clothes, no diapers and now, a mountain of grief and sorrow.    They have no money to bury their daughter, so are trying to borrow funds and bury here next week.  I took the 5+ pound baby from a distraught Grandmother who knew the boy how had a chance at life and a future.

Thursday was bitter sweet. The sadness of the family was bitter, but bringing the newborn baby back to Project Canaan, while our whole big family was celebrating US Thanksgiving (complete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy!) was nothing but sweet.

Today is a new day and it’s the beginning of the Christmas season.  We celebrated here with our annual Project Canaan Academy Christmas pageant, and it was magical.  The children performed beautifully and the true meaning of the Christmas season was celebrated.

As you sit and read this blog today then move on to some online shopping I ask that you please start your shopping at  We have 110+ workers who have worked all year to have product on our website and are depending people like you to buy their goods.  The handcrafted jewelry and beadwork is beautiful and very high quality.

As a special gift to YOU for being loyal blog readers, I am offering you a 50% OFF discount for everything at (excluding tree ornaments) by entering the code JANINESBLOG. This offer is from today until Monday only.

PLEASE shop today and help us care for our 174 babies PLUS the 100+ Khutsala artisans.

Christmas with children is wonderful and I am thankful to have 176 to celebrate with.

Live from Swaziland … praying that you will shop


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cancer sucks.

Tomorrow is my 54th birthday.

Two days ago our friend Sharon died, the day after her 54th birthday.

In June 2016 Sharon McGill and her family were with us in Swaziland.  They sat with us at our fireplace and enjoyed a Swazi sunset, they built the playground at our Emseni Campus, and they enjoyed playing with our children. 


Six months later Sharon was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, sought treatment and was thought to be in remission.  Then there was the “potato-like” lump on her hip in September. I laughed and told her that I also have lumps on my hips that are from potatoes. 

And suddenly she is gone.

Sharon and her husband Terry are dorm parents at Morrison Academy in Taiwan where Chloe went to high school.  That is where we met them and became friends.  They are missionary kids themselves and in fact were students at Morrison Academy when they were teenagers, and then were married for 27 years.  Their lives are parallel to Ian and my lives in many ways. Ian and I also went to high school together, we have been married 26 years, we are both called in ministry to care for other people's children and of course there’s the 54th birthday.  I will eat cake. She couldn’t. 

Death is a strange creature.  We are all going to die. No one escapes that.  And yet the pain that comes with it feels like having open-heart surgery without any anesthetic.  As followers of Jesus we believe that Sharon is completely healed and is in heaven with those that have gone on before.  We also believe that in a blink of an eye we will see her, and all of our loved ones again.  But in the meantime, the pain is unbearable for loved ones left behind.

And then there are the hospital bills.  The McGills are from Taiwan. Through a series of events Sharon ended up in an ICU room in a hospital in San Diego.  They don’t have US insurance, and the bills are staggering.  Then there is the travel back to Taiwan.  My head spins at the complexity and I find myself shouting “this not fair God!”

When I was a little girl and was upset about something that I didn’t like I would say to my mom, “That’s not fair!”.  And my mom would always respond, “Life is not fair.”  I found no solace in that, nor was she trying to give me any. She was just stating a fact.

Life is not fair.  Cancer sucks.

I am writing today with a birthday wish.  Would you please pray for Terry, their boys and the HUGE family who is mourning this tragic loss.  But also, will you take a further step and help relieve the pressure of the hospital bill so that the McGill family can mourn their loss in peace?  Please go to and give now.

Terry wrote a beautiful blog during these last few weeks and yesterday he ended it with these words, “We are grieving and we will continue to.  We will simultaneously grab hold of all the joy in life that God gives us and we will carry on.” ( )

Live from Swaziland … "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted."  Matthew 5:4


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Beautiful things out of dust

Many of you have heard the song called “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  Yesterday the song was brought to life to me in a new way, and I saw the hand of God in a new and mighty way.  It was at the Project Canaan Academy Talent Show that took place at the Oasis on Project Canaan.

Some children sang, others danced, and then there was Rose.  Rose is our eldest (almost 7-years-old) and her talent was performance art.  Rose proceeded to paint using white glue on a white paper, so no one could see what she was painting.  As the music played out “You make beautiful things out of the dust”, Rose blew glitter dust on to her invisible painting and magically, a beautiful flower appeared.

Our Rose is a beautiful girl, named after a beautiful flower. She was found as a baby, sitting in the dirt outside of a stick and mud hut many years ago. She and her twin brother had been left by their mother and stayed in that dust for more than 48-hours until the homeowner arrived home.  Social welfare placed them with us and now Project Canaan is home.

Rose was severely malnourished when she arrived at 18-months-old.

As I sat and watched Rose, I wept. God makes beautiful things out of the dust.  That truth is real, and that truth was right in front of me.

I hope you are blessed by this simple, yet powerful thought.

Thank you Amber and Melissa for making this all possible.  

And here is a bonus video to make your Saturday happy. Our Kindergarten class dancing to a little JT!

Live from Swaziland … happy Saturday.


For those of you who are not familiar with the song "Beautiful Things", here is the YouTube link  and here are the lyrics.

"Beautiful Things"
All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Saturday, November 4, 2017

What I know for sure

Ben feeding Wendy
Whenever I pick up an “O” Magazine I always read the last page first. It’s a personally written summary of what is on Oprah’s mind that month.

Here is what I know for sure today.  Home is where the heart is, and my heart is here in Swaziland.  This is my home.

After being away for 25 days I spent most of my week hanging out with our children and children’s home staff. It is where I am refueled, rejuvenated and where my heart fills up very quickly.

I watched our big kids playing with and helping out with our babies and it brought me joy. 

I saw little ones learning how to sit at a small table and feed themselves as they prepare to move to the toddler home and it brought me hope.

I was able to help save the life of a 6-week-old baby who was starving to death in a one-room home with an old Gogo who had nothing to give the baby except her love and I was able to show love.

And I sat on the patio of our home and watched the sun go down over the recently plowed and planted fields of Project Canaan and felt peace.

What I also know for sure is that obedience precedes understanding, and I am so thankful that we were obedient.  There is no place that I would rather be than on our mountain top in the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland.

Live from Swaziland … life is good (not easy, but good).


Saturday, October 28, 2017

A former assassin, a suicide bomber and a few Christians

What a wonderful welcome home!!
Today we arrived home to Swaziland after 25 days away.  In the past month we have seen the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.  We were on 14 flights landing in 8 countries on 3 continents.  We have been blessed beyond our wildest imaginations in seeing friends, family and the wonders of God’s creation.

Just sitting on the Mediterranean coast.
This past week we attended a conference in North Africa.  Due to the nature and location of the conference I will leave most of the details out, but I do want to share a bit about it because we were in a Muslim country where early Christians were imprisoned and then fed to the lions as entertainment for the locals, and Christians who have converted from Islam today are ostracized by their friends and family because they have become infidels.

In the midst of this eye-opening and informative week we met two incredible men of God.  One is a former assassin for the late PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, his name is Tass Saada, and his books are a “must read”.  The other is a man who was raised in an extremist Islam school and as a teenager was training/preparing to be a suicide bomber.  I won’t share his name or photo publicly. Both of them had personal encounters with Jesus, which lead to their conversion, at great personal risk.  Both of them had a profound impact on my life.

I wept as I stood and heard each of them speak so openly and honestly about the hatred they had in their hearts when they were young, and how it all changed when Jesus was revealed to them.  These are men who had never cried in their lives until they felt the love of their heavenly father, and then “suddenly there was something running down their cheeks from their eyes”.

It was humbling and inspiring to learn about the “Spirit of Martyrdom” in the early church and what an honor it was to be martyred for the sake of Jesus.  All this while we stood in the very location that the bible was Canonized in 397 BC.  It was equally encouraging to hear people serving God all over the world share miraculous stories of healing and transformation in the ministries where they serve.  You would be surprised at what stories a former assassin, a suicide bomber and a few Christians can tell :)

This month has been a month of encouragement for us both. No matter where we were, or who we were with, words of love and encouragement were spoken over us.  What an incredible gift that was to us.

Today’s journey home from North Africa to Swaziland took us a total of 26-hours.  We are tired, but at the same time rested. As the expression goes, “A change is as good as a holiday.”  We are ready for a day of rest tomorrow and then to be back to work on Monday with our Project Canaan family.

Live from Swaziland … 33 of our “big kids” greeted us at the airport!!