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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Get Down Swazi Style – By Amber VanWinkle, Heart for Africa Long-Term Volunteer

Serving in Swaziland is one of the most amazing experiences of our married life. We have enjoyed learning the culture, loving the kids, and falling more and more in love with God as we serve Him here in Swaziland.

We have had many memorable experiences, from Kenny driving the wrong way in the box truck when we first got here to praying with the older boys before bed. One of our favorite moments is captured in this amazing video below. We have Bible story and worship time everyday at school. We teach truths during this time that will make an eternal impact on the heart of these children forever.

One of the songs we worship to is Get Down. Get Down is one of my favorite kid songs EVER!  I used to sing this song when I worked at Auburn Church in Upstreet.  Now I am in Swaziland dancing with these amazing children.  The song has so many great truths that children of every culture need to know.  They need to know that…

In your weakness He is stronger.
In Your darkness He shines through.
When you’re crying He’s your comfort.
When your all alone, He’s carrying you.

He will continually lift us up – such a perfect truth. God is continually lifting Kenny and I up as we serve Him in Swaziland.  He is carrying us!  We know that He is our strength and comfort. So thankful for this truth and that these beautiful children get to learn it at such a young age.

Have so much fun watching the video because we sure did making it!

Link to video:  http://youtu.be/E6UqrLZaknU

Shining Bright,

Amber VanWinkle
Check out our blog http://lovegodlivefree.blogspot.com/.

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Stepping In To Save Swaziland Babies – Susan Page

This baby Oprah look-alike was allowed by her grandfather to live at Project Canaan. Photos from Susan Page

Late January is summer in the Kingdom of Swaziland – and seriously hot. It’s also when poisonous black mamba snakes are out and about. Deadly, slithering creatures normally would deter me, but this trip halfway around the world was to meet 49 babies at a place called Project Canaan. On this 2,500-acre nonprofit farm, these babies – most abandoned at birth – are thriving under the watchful supervision of Janine Maxwell, co-founder of Heart for Africa and driving force behind its mission to save, nurture, educate, feed and house the otherwise discarded. She and husband Ian, Heart for Africa’s CEO, live on Project Canaan.

Just after our arrival, Janine asked, “Wanta join me tomorrow?”

After many “uncommon” outings with her in Africa over eight years, I always say yes, realizing that despite trepidation, I’ll be better for the experience (black mambas notwithstanding).

This particular morning, Janine was her usual multi-tasking self, negotiating the impossible roads of Swaziland in HFA’s worn four-wheel drive Land Rover. First, we delivered a pregnant 17-year-old Swazi girl to her final medical appointment before the due date in two weeks. After much anguish, the girl had decided not to abort her baby, a product of rape by a policeman, and instead place it at Project Canaan’s El Roi baby house. (Read the shocking details of a Swazi maternity hospital at www.janinemaxwell.blogspot.com.)

I was merely a tag-along, sworn to observe, not be my normal chatterbox. Also along was an El Roi caregiver and a little toddler who was, I swear, the spitting image of a baby Oprah Winfrey. Only two weeks prior, a Swazi social welfare worker had asked Janine if “Oprah” could live at El Roi, and she was already getting on famously there, a little talk show star in the making. However, her aged grandfather, as legal guardian, demanded a meeting to discuss his grandchild.

“Oprah’s” social welfare worker joined us, and off we headed into the remote countryside of mud huts and rugged roads in search of her grandfather’s homestead. As we drove, it was sinking in that Oprah might not come home with us. Little girls don’t fare well in Swazi culture, which affords them no right to refuse family males – regarding sex or otherwise. Girls are powerless and often abused. Under Swazi law, the grandfather has rights to Oprah, whose teenage mother died in childbirth. A younger sister, 15, couldn’t continue caring for the baby.

On the road, we blessedly encountered the village runner, the chief’s liaison, who knew the family. He led us down a narrow, rocky foot path to a rundown cluster of two mud huts overgrown with brambles, where mongrel dogs and some skinny chickens roamed. (Black mambas crossed my mind.) Eventually, grandpa emerged and we all sat in a circle. Oprah toddled over and crawled into his lap.

This hut is where the grandfather of ‘Oprah’ lives

Serious dialogue ensued in SiSwati. The runner weighed in, too. As Oprah stared intently at each talker, I pictured the real Oprah. Grandpa tearfully said he loved the child, who reminded him of his dead daughter. It was sad, but not enough to imagine Oprah left there for him to raise.

Suddenly, Grandpa announced he had to consult with his brother, who lived nearby. Trudging a sweltering quarter mile, we found ourselves in another circle with the brother and his wives. After everyone said their piece, Janine spoke eloquently. She was very respectful yet blunt. At Project Canaan, the baby would be nourished mentally, physically and spiritually. She would go to school for free and be loved. Oprah potentially could become one of Swaziland’s future leaders. The decision was theirs.

It turns out two other children from this family are placed in another Swazi care home. How many more would there be?

Relief overwhelmed us as we escorted cheery baby Oprah home. Then, around 1 p.m., Janine answered her ringing cell phone. The pregnant teen we’d dropped off for her appointment had gone into early labor. “Do you want me there?” Janine asked. “OK, I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

And off we went.

I lent support as Janine coached the scared teen through her first labor, then delivery. It was awkward and draining, but as we drove over the mountain that night in darkness, in my arms was a 45-minute-old healthy baby boy, Project Canaan’s baby No. 50, now called Jerry, after my husband Jerry Coffee. (Janine emails that 51 and 52 have since arrived.)

And why, you may ask, didn’t we adopt one of the babies?

Because it’s not legal to adopt Swaziland babies, in part because of concerns about potential abuses by human traffickers.

For more on Project Canaan, go to heartforafrica.org.


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