When God called me to Africa to serve in 2005, I had no clue about the experiences that were to come. After spending a 10-day mission trip in the tiny kingdom of Swaziland, I joined the board of the re-organized Heart for Africa. (The predecessor organization, Dream for Africa, was founded by well-known Christian pastor and author Bruce Wilkinson.
After I volunteered to help, Wilkinson turned the organization over to Ian and Janine Maxwell, residents of Toronto who had closed their very successful advertising agency (clients such as Disney and Kraft Foods) to follow God’s call to help in Africa. We held our first board meeting in May 2006 in a suburb of Atlanta.
Less than a month later, Janine was putting the family home on the market in Toronto and house-hunting in the northern Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta. Their already amazing journey was ready to take more turns.
After three tries, Ian finally received clearance from U.S. immigration to work temporarily in the United States. Over the past five years, they have led Heart for Africa as it has helped African faith-based organizations develop homes for orphaned children in Swaziland and Kenya as well as working in Malawi. We have done so by raising money for schools, wells and other key infrastructure as well as taking more than 5,000 volunteers on 11-day service trips to those countries.
In 2008, we were shown 2,500 acres of land in Swaziland and God raised up a donor for the $1 million to buy it. Project Canaan was dedicated in June 2009 and the first crop harvested in March 2010. This year, five abandoned babies moved in the baby’s home there. We expect it will be a capacity of 20 infants later this year.
We anticipate building homes and schools to house and educate children ranging in age from infants to teen-agers. The efforts will be funded by contributions from supporters as well as from profits from developing the farm and producing a variety of high-value products for use both in Swaziland and to export. The long-term vision includes a diary and high-intensity fish farming.
And today, a prophecy that was spoken over Janine Maxwell in a South African church in August of 2005 will move to fruition. The woman said that Janine and Ian would become the spiritual mother and father to a new generation of African children.
They leave this afternoon to live on Project Canaan in Swaziland and oversee all development and operations. Their family home on Project Canaan is completed and their furnishings were shipped this week from Atlanta.
It has been an amazing ride for the Maxwells since Janine was in New York on 9-11. The 9-11 experience triggered an examination of her life and her priorities. A trip to Africa to meet children living on the streets grabbed her heart and led to a connection with Wilkinson and eventually the staff positions.
Today starts the next chapter of living in Africa, something Janine thought would happen—as she wrote in her blog— instead of the move Alpharetta. Looking back, she realized how Alpharetta, a tony, semi-rural suburb similar to attitude to Alamo, had been an important part of God’s plan that today leads to Swaziland.
The challenge there is immense—the population has declined by about 100,000 to about 950,000 as AIDS continues to kill young adults—it is the single most AIDS-infected country in the world with the official infection rate at 42 percent. That has left an estimated 200,000 children orphaned or vulnerable in a country where the government is -–at best—overwhelmed by the challenge.
Project Canaan, headed by the Maxwells, will stand as a site of great hope for a new generation of African children who will be supported by money earned in the agricultural operations that will eventually employ hundreds of locals.
For more information on Heart for Africa, please see www.heartforafrica.org. Janine Maxwell has written two books: “It’s not OK with me” and “Is it OK with you,” both available at amazon.com.