Into, On, Around and Under – by Jamie Klee, Long-Term Volunteer

Hello, we are the Klee family.  We are formerly from the Atlanta area where we lived for 22 years.   Mark and I have 3 kids:  Austin who is 20, Bailey who turns 18 at the end of this month, and our baby girl, Cameron, who is 14.  In June 2012, 4 of us (Mark, Jamie, Bailey and Cameron) moved to Swaziland with a 40ft storage container filled with all our worldly possessions.  We hoped that by moving here permanently, we could help Heart for Africa’s mission to save and serve abandoned and vulnerable children in Swaziland.

For any of you old enough to remember Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor….I honestly can’t even remember the name of the popular TV show he starred in… but Tim’s love for power tools and building things describes my husband, Mark, perfectly.  He has an amazing talent for and receives joy from constructing and creating – and is always up for an adventure.  His first project, Kuthula Place, involved putting a metal roof on a round concrete building.  This project was certainly an initiation into problem-solving building with materials (and shapes) not typically used or found in the US.

Mark is the construction manager on Project Canaan and has been responsible for finishing Kuthula Place and Moringa House and overseeing the construction of the Manna Distribution Center.  He has constructed (and in several cases designed as well) the Preschool, the Toddler Home, the Container Stores, a home for our Baby Home manager, goat birthing units, the Kibbutz (13 total units), and the Medical Clinic.  He is almost finished with the construction of staff housing and the Kindergarten and is beginning construction of the Emseni Children’s Campus.  Let’s just say he keeps a full plate and enjoys (almost) every minute of it.  Keep in mind there are no Lowes or Home Depots here.  Sourcing materials has been a full time job, and has forced him to be very “creative” and “resourceful” in coming up with alternative solutions to masonry, electrical, plumbing, and on it goes….

The girls and I spent our first few months here transitioning to life in Africa and spent many hours with our first few babies at the Baby Home on Project Canaan.  There were 8 babies when we first came – and now there are almost 60!  However, I know those first connections we made with these babies…helping to pick them up from Social Welfare or the hospital, spending sleepless nights bottle feeding, changing diapers, and celebrating birthday parties (Bailey was our cake baker) will connect us for a lifetime.  It is an amazing opportunity for me as a mom to see both of my girls blossom with love and responsibility for these children.  We’ve often talked with each other about how it is going to feel walking down the street with one of our boys…they are toddlers now, but as parents we know kids seem to shoot up over night.  It won’t be long until we are no longer looking down to see them, but up instead!

I am now working with several of our Kibbutz women making jewelry to raise money for our babies.  (Shameless plug…please look through the HFA website for gift ideas.)  God has blessed us with amazing designers from the States who take time out of their busy lives to offer designs and guidance.  So, when I find myself getting frustrated because we’ve run out of supplies (that are not available in this country or continent), or we have no power for a few days which means no internet either, or our designs don’t turn out quite as I’d hoped….I try to remind myself that the profits from our efforts are going directly (or indirectly) into the mouths, on the bottoms, around the bellies, and under the heads of our precious children.

It hasn’t always been easy…but it’s been fulfilling!

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I can still hear it… – by Volunteer Janice Johnson

I can still hear it…By Volunteer Janice Johnson

I can still hear the chickens loud and proud announcing, “This is the Day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  A couple of hours later the “Aunties” are meeting in the baby home singing and praying to God, our Father, as they bless the baby campus and walk the halls of the toddler home.  Around 7:05 am, I hear the pitter patter of feet running down the hall.

That was two weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to live and serve in the toddler home on Project Canaan in Swaziland, Africa with 24 toddlers.  Twenty-four different personalities that reminded me throughout the day of God’s goodness and grace.  I thought I knew what my role would be while I was there, but according to GOD’s plan and purpose, everyday was a different experience and an opportunity to serve Him…through the aunties, the children, at the pre-school and in unison with everyone on the farm.  I will never forget riding in the back of a beat up old pick-up truck with Chloe when we brought Nomsa “home” (in the back because her Tuberculosis is highly infectious so she had to ride outside.  So we joined her with masks on).  We heard the Aunties singing God’s praises (yet again) so she could see her twin daughters, Leah and Rachel, who live at the baby home.  Reading books and saying prayers with the toddlers, walking to Nomsa to take her meals, and “being thankful” in the midst of it all.

That’s what happens when you “Let Go and Let God”.  You experience His love and devotion in so many ways.  Several years ago, our Senior Pastor, Andy Stanley, did a sermon called One, Not Everyone.  It was very clear to me that in this season that I would go “Deep and Wide” in Swaziland with Heart for Africa.

On my last morning, as I helped dress another happy but squirmy toddler, I prayed and thanked God for this new generation.  Those pitter patter feet would walk for HIM;  those lips would speak for HIM;  and those hands would work for HIM.  And as young Gabriel would say…AMEN!

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Home – by Maria Koopmans, Long-Term Volunteer

Having spent the past few weeks staring at ticket prices on our computer screen in the hopes of joining the celebrations for my husband’s sister’s wedding back home, I’ve had time to sit and reflect on that small, four letter word “home”. There are now many places that I can label as “home”. My heart and my passport specify Ireland as my first home followed by Haiti, a little country in the Caribbean. Haiti was where I met my husband, Arlyn, a Canadian dairy farmer. While both of us lived and worked at an infant care facility there, I had the opportunity to witness some of Arlyn’s talents; it’s not every man who can spend his days busy fixing vehicles and repairing maintenance issues while evenings were spent caring for fragile and sick babies. Although I saw some of Arlyn’s many talents, I did not begin to comprehend his love for farming while we served there. There’s a little log cabin by a lake in Canada where we first began to learn how to be married that is also “home”.  We are still learning what God has for us in marriage.  Now we call a little part of the Kingdom of Swaziland “home”.

Working at Project Canaan my days are filled with 59 beautiful children that I get to watch grow, develop and prosper. Serving at the El Roi Baby home, I get to see first hand the transformation that occurs in the babies placed in our care. Watching and being a little part of the process that helps these little ones to grow and respond to love is such a privilege. I love seeing babies achieve their firsts- first smiles, rolling over, sitting up, standing, first steps and each of these milestones are rejoiced. It’s fun to watch little personalities develop, to see how they respond to love and to know that these babies have been chosen by El Roi, the God who sees, and regardless of what their back stories may be they now get to experience love and grow up in an environment where they will learn about their Saviour.

Many days are filled holding and loving on the little ones.  Other days I help at hospital appointments, help care for any of the sicker children and enjoy playing with the active toddlers. When the work day is over and it’s time to go home I wave goodbye to little hands that frantically wave back and blow kisses and I know that the following day will be filled with love again. I’m so thankful that I get to share God’s love with so many special little people and that I too experience His unconditional love through them.

Arlyn’s time is divided between the Lusito Mechanics shop helping to repair many of the farm’s vehicles and equipment while training others and the new dairy where he’s busy ensuring that the dairy cows are producing enough milk to meet the children’s needs and the local guys are developing some dairy farming skills too. Watching Arlyn work with something he is so passionate about, I get to experience the joy he has as he uses the skills he grew up with to serve others here in Swaziland. Often in the evenings when we’re sitting at home reflecting on our days’ activities Arlyn will be deep in thought.   While I dream of healthy, happy babies, his thoughts are usually about increasing milk production, improving the cow’s feed or how to fix a challenging repair job.

Home has been many places for both of us and I’ve begun to realize that home is wherever the other is, where God has called us both to be. I’m so thankful that we get to call Swaziland home; that we get to serve God in such a beautiful place with His beautiful people. Project Canaan is serving so many people in Swaziland- the babies in our care, the employees on the farm, the rural churches’ feeding programs among others and we’re grateful that we get to be a part of the team that attempts to be a reflection of God’s love here in this beautiful country that we call home.

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Unity in Christ – by Kristal Flentge, Long-Term Volunteer

My husband and I and our children moved to Swaziland in January of this year.  We have had an amazing experience so far and I could talk for hours about all the ways God has shown up both in our preparations for moving here and in our adjustments and experiences once we arrived.  But there is one thing that has made my spirit sing in ways that nothing else has and that is this: the beautiful unity of the team working on the ground with Heart for Africa.

There are several volunteers and employees here and we all come from different backgrounds.  Some of us are white and some of us are black.  Some are American, some are Canadian, some are Kenyan…and that’s just to name a few of the nationalities represented.  We are Baptists, Charismatics, Assemblies of God, and more.  We are men and women, we are young and old, we are new Christians and mature Christians.  We represent many walks of life but there is one thing that ties us all together – the love of Christ.

Theologies, life experiences, backgrounds…in my short time here, I have not seen these hinder our group as we seek to serve the people of Swaziland.  We work together to solve problems, help others, grow our organization, and ultimately, to give glory to God.  We even throw in a few fun evenings of relaxing as a group in there!

 It is sometimes easy to become wrapped up in our differences.  Especially in the American Christian culture, our differences lead us down paths of infighting and discord.  At times, it can be hard to know how to step past those differences and simply work to love one another.  I have been immensely blessed to experience the unity and love here.  It is something that will not be soon forgotten. Our differences are not unimportant.  But the one thing that is of ultimate importance is the one thing we all have in common – a passion for Christ and His children.

I am so thankful that God has shown our family a clear picture of how His people can work together to do His good.  Thank you, Lord, for our experiences here.

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