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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Another break-in and now an assault ... what would you do?



Jere's arm after tacking the robbers.
There has been a rash of break-ins on Project Canaan.  The first major one was last July when thieves broken in to our front office, right under the nose of a sleeping guard (and his defense was the he was asleep!). Six weeks ago our house was broken in to (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/07/our-home-was-vandalized.html ), a month later the VanWinkes house was broken in to (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/08/another-break-in-on-project-canaan-and.html)  and this week the thieves escalated their crime to a new level.

On Wednesday night vandals broke in to the Guest House while our dear friends, Jere and Janet Scott, were sleeping.  Janet awoke with the men in their bedroom and when she shouted at them they hit her in the head twice. Jere (who is 84-years-old) jumped up and grabbed one of the robbers, and pulled his ski mask off before they ran out the door with multiple electronics and cash. We are so thankful that they weren’t hurt or killed, and both are strong and more determined than ever to continue serving the Lord here in Swaziland.

Janet's black and blue eye from being hit
Daily we reminded that we are living/working/serving in a third world country.  We are surrounded by hunger, orphan headed households, poverty and lack of education, which is leading to anger, jealousy, a sense of entitlement, but only by a few.  And you know what they say - it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.  I think there are a few bad apples in our basket.  That being said, there is crime everywhere. Houses are broken in to all the time in Canada and the US, cars are stolen, people are robbed. This is not a third world problem, but it is a very real, ongoing problem for us here.

We have local and regional police involved as well as a private investigator.  We are working on a broader security plan that will need to involve weapons, cameras, better trained security and more fencing.  But I HATE that we have to do this. I HATE that a few young people who are smoking dagga (weed) are giving a nation a bad name. I HATE that by writing this blog and sharing what is happening that some people will no longer want to support Heart for Africa financially or change their plans to come and serve here because they are afraid.  I HATE that there is fear amongst some of our volunteers and fear amongst most of our staff.  And I really HATE that Spencer and Chloe have to be worried and afraid for us a million miles away.

It would be easier (and likely much wiser) for me to stay silent, and not tell you how many calls we now get in the middle of the night from police or investigators asking about this person, reporting an incident that just happened or wondering if we are okay because our dogs have gone crazy barking.

What would you do?

We are weary. We are not sleeping well.  We (I am) are trying to not be intimidated or fearful, but alas, we are along way from home, and at times feel very isolated and alone.

I can certainly see why so many people have just packed up and moved home after trying to help in Africa. I can also see why donors are skeptical and don’t want to support ministries in Africa. I GET IT. 

But we will not be leaving.  We will endure.  We will continue to pray for wisdom, and strength and endurance and financial support and protection as we continue to love and care for 162 precious children who GOD himself has entrusted us with.  HE IS our protector and HE HAS won the battle. 

This is how Jonathan sleeps, with one leg crossed the other - he is why we must not be afraid.

This is Bonita's 2nd birthday - she is why we must not be deterred.
Thank you all for your many words of encouragement, your prayers and your love.  If you feel that you want to help us financially as we incur more costs to further secure our volunteers and children, I thank you in advance for that too.

In the US click here.


Thank you.

Live from Swaziland … it is Saturday morning.

Janine

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Another break in on Project Canaan AND they tried to poison the dog.


August 11 Blog

Last Saturday night we had another break in on Project Canaan, but this time it was at Amber and Kenny VanWinkle’s house.  The VanWinkles are long term volunteers and were offsite visiting friends when the thieves cut through the burglar bars at their home, went through their whole house and stealing laptops, iPhone, TV, a wedding ring and some personal family treasures.  Their Jack Russell dog (Yebo) was in the house, but clearly did not deter the burglars.

This was as devastating to Amber and Kenny as it was to us when our house was broken in to back in June (http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2017/07/our-home-was-vandalized.html).

We are quite certain that it is the same thieves and we are quite certain that it’s an inside job, meaning that people whom we know, trust, love and employ are directly involved with both break-ins.

We have hired a private investigator who is infamous in Swaziland.  His name is well known and as he says, “When a snake heads towards the monkeys, the monkeys will scatter”.  There certainly has been some scattering on the farm when this man started showing up on the premises to investigate.

Two nights after the break-in (with a 24 hour guard assigned to their house) the thieves came back and put rat poison in Yebo’s water bowl that was in the backyard inside their gated area. We are told that rationale was to scare us all in to calling off the investigation, but it will not be called off, we will NOT be afraid, and Yebo was smart enough to point it out to Kenny.

We are working with several experts on elevating the security all over the property, but won’t share any of those details here as many of our employees read this blog. Suffice it to say, things are changing at Project Canaan.

This morning my Facebook page popped up an image from five years ago. It was a photo of our first nine children, in their pajamas all sitting on a change table.  I went down to Saturday’s Kids Club and the Oasis and we re-enacted the photo of our first nine.  The kids squealed in seeing themselves as babies and loved crawling up on the bed to get the updated photo.

Levi, David, Caleb, Jeremiah, Emmanuel, Anna, Joshua, Esther, Miriam - 2012

Levi, David, Caleb, Jeremiah, Emmanuel, Anna, Joshua, Esther, Miriam - 2017
I sent both photos to Kenny and Amber to encourage them and remind them why we are all here.  While fear continues to want to keep a stranglehold here at Project Canaan, LOVE is so much bigger and SO much stronger than fear. I am sharing them today with you to show you what the love of Jesus looks like.  Look at the hope and joy in the eyes of our children now.  My heart is full.

We are told that the greatest commandment in the bible is to “love one another”, even when it’s hard. Today, and every day, we choose love.

Live from Swaziland … I choose love and I will not be afraid.

Janine

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Testicles



This is 2-year-old Jonathan.  All of his parts are in the right place. I have an update on his health at the end of this blog.

I am not sure that I have every used the word “testicles” in my life prior to a month ago.  And in the last four weeks, it has been a word used in my daily vocabulary. 

Strangely, we have had four boys in the past few weeks who we have discovered in “well child check ups” to have un-descended testis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptorchidism). 

This is more common than one might think, with 1 in 20 boys being born with the problem.  Typically the testis do make their way down to where they are supposed to reside, but if they don’t get there by the time the boy is 9-months-old, surgery is recommended.  Without surgery, the risk increases for infertility and/or cancer.

How hard could it be to have this kind of surgery in Swaziland you ask? Well, not really that hard at all, but there is only one urologist in Swaziland (we are very grateful that he is here!) and the cost is approximately $4,000 USD per surgery/child.  Yes, that means an unexpected cost of $16,000 in the past four weeks for testicles. You can see why the word has been spoken so often in my current circles.  What do we do?  We had a small amount of money in our “Emergency Medical” fund, but certainly not that amount.  But we moved forward in faith, and started with the first boy.

Now I am writing a blog using that word with the hopes that some of you will understand the importance of the surgery for the other boys and will help us out.

Ian and I often sit and look at each other and say, “you can’t make this stuff up”.  And we sure can’t.  And the other thing you can’t do is predict that four of your boys will have undescended testis next year and put it in a line item on a budget for Board approval. Imagine that conversation.

Speaking of testicles, I wanted to give you an update on the rapist that I had the distinct pleasure of capturing in November 2015. You can read about it at http://janinemaxwell.blogspot.com/2015/11/a-rapist-was-caught-this-week-and-then.html

This is the evidence bag that had the phone, machete, and the lady's underwear in it.
Last week he went to court, and while he confessed to multiple rapes while at the police station, he denied them in front of the judge.  The good thing was that the day we caught him, and put in the back of my truck, he had the lady’s cell phone (that he stole from her) in his bag, the machete that he attacked her with and his DNA was on her clothing.  He was found guilty of two counts of rape and one robbery. He will be sentenced next week, but we are expecting 15 years for each of the rapes and then the robbery on top. 

While I sat in front of the prosecutor preparing for court, an old lady sitting beside me described how this man had also raped her a few months before the November case.  These two ladies were sisters.  One, the eldest in the family, and one was the youngest.  My heart broke for them both, and while I think that we should have used his bush knife to cut off his … well … I won’t use that word again in this blog, I am relieved that there is one more bad guy out of our community. 

The guy in the red plaid is the rapist, the blue stripe was the arresting officer.
If you can help with our Emergency fund so that our little boys can get help, please do so by clicking on the links below so that we can proceed with the other surgeries.

In the US click here.


Live from Swaziland … Ian and I are having a date day.

Janine

This skin problem is directly linked to Jonathan's severe malnutrition.
PS Update on Jonathan.  Our poor little Jonathan started to lose weight last weekend and so they did another x-ray, only to find a spot on his lung.  They have started him on treatment for Tuberculosis and will keep him in the hospital for the next two weeks to see if he responds to treatment. If he gets healthier, that is great news. If not, it could be drug resistant TB, which is a different problem. We pray for quick and total healing. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Please don’t feel sorry for our children.

Phayo and Mona Lisa are biological sisters and love each other dearly.
It used to bother me that people would tell us how they felt sorry for our children not being raised in a “normal home” and how sad it is that they can’t be adopted so that they could be loved “properly” by two parents.  No matter how we try to explain that they live in a Children’s Home where Ian and I are their mother and father and they have many loving Aunts and Uncles, it doesn’t deter their looks of pity and many “helpful suggestions” on how we can do things better.

I have been preparing a series of talks on “family” and “parenting” for our Care Team and came across an interesting article by an author called Theophanes that says, “Western Society seems to have this idea that there is only one type of family, that of the Nuclear form, which consists of a mother, a father, and children. This belief is an incredibly misinformed one as across the globe at any point in our social history there have been all sorts of views on what families are and how they should be composed”.

He goes on to explain the difference between Communal families (often tribal), Nuclear families (married parents and offspring), Polygamist families (Swaziland), Single Parent (everywhere) and Unrelated (gangs/street kids).

I know single parents who wouldn’t change their family structure for anything. I have friends who live with three generations of people in their home, and that is perfect for them.  And I know many divorced couples whom wish their family life had turned out differently, but there is now a new “normal” in which they raise their children.

Is one family style really better than another?  I think I was raised in the “perfect family” with a mom, a dad and only me.  But growing up I had people tell me how sorry they were for me that I had no siblings. I LOVED being an only child. :)

But now that I am mother to 164 children I have noticed an undercurrent in conversations I have with Westerners that our family here on Project Canaan is somehow “second best”, and I disagree.  The Lord is doing a “new work” here, and our children reflect that.  They are being raised in much of their culture, speaking their language and learning about the deep heritage that they come from.

Shirley and Christine
Our children are healthy (even the ones being treated for HIV/AIDS), strong, smart and even the most disabled child is loved and cared in a way that would be given to an “only child” in western culture.

Our Care Team are all “stay at home moms and dads”.  Our children are not distracted by electronics or an over active schedule.  They are loved by many in a large village, some whom they see once a year and some whom they see every day.  They play, fight, cry, whine, laugh and love, like any other “normal” kid. 

Little Wendy.
In today’s meeting with my staff I will ask the question “What makes a healthy home” and “What makes an unhealthy home?” Isn’t that really what we should be trying to achieve?  A healthy home environment filled with love, hope, inspiration, stimulation, discipline, joy, faith and Jesus at the core? 

Our family doesn’t look like your family. Our family doesn’t look like ANY other family.  We are unique, and like you, we were all placed in our families by our heavenly Father, who has great plans for our lives.  For that I will be forever grateful. 


Thank you all for being a part of our village.

If you would like to financially support our family, please become a monthly donor today.

In the US click here.

In Canada click here.

Live from Swaziland … I am off to a morning of games and fun with our big kids.

Janine

PS – Jonathan is still at the hospital, but he is responding to treatment and they do not think that he has TB.  They will discharge him when he weights 8.5 KG (18.9 pounds). Thanks for your continued prayers for him.

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.