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A Father to 368 Children... 😅

Don't Screw it Up.

When I was dating Janine (who is now my wife), she said, “I don’t want to have kids, it’s too much responsibility. You can unknowingly make one comment and screw up their whole lives. But… if I was to have children, I would want to have them with you.

Over the years, I have recounted what she said and have tried my best to avoid making a comment that would screw up my children’s lives. No one is perfect, so along the way there have been situations that merited a comment that had the potential to screw up my children.

Fortunately, Spencer and Chloe have grown up and left the nest, we have a very good adult relationship with them, and they are both doing well in their lives.

Janine and I sometimes joke, we lucked out with how we raised Spencer and Chloe but really, no one’s that lucky. We were intentional in everything we did, from being their parents, not their friends, to learning that life is not fair, but working hard and doing your best will always get you ahead in life.

Who does that?

My family has grown well beyond my wildest expectations. The Lord has given us the opportunity to be parents to 368 of His children through Project Canaan in Eswatini, Africa. Being a father to this many children can be overwhelming, but I have to admit, I love it. Knowing that each child placed in our family was placed there by the Creator, who has a plan for their life, and part of that plan placed me as their earthly father figure. WOW, who does that?

Seeing my kids grow up is a gift that brings me joy every day. You may wonder how it’s possible that Janine and I are able to do this. Well, we can’t but God can! He guides our steps every day. Our staff has grown over the years to help care for our children. Currently we have 140+ aunties, uncles, cleaners, cooks and drivers that help us every day. I am very proud of our Care Team. They have come a long way learning about early childhood development, and are open to learning new ideas about discipline, affection and loving our children.

Our Kids

Recently, one of our boys, (who will remain unnamed) was caught stealing sweets (candy). The boy, Allen (Manager of the middle and upper campus Boys), Likhwa, (supervisor at Emseni 6 - one of our homes) and I sat down to talk about how stealing breaks the relationship between himself and God and the family. We talked for a while and in the end, he was sorry for what he did and agreed to apologize to the person he stole from. For his punishment he would have to earn some money to replace what he stole, (and ate) … not so sweet after all.

One of the things we feel is very important is to do age-appropriate chores.

Our toddlers clean up their toys, our 5-year olds are making their own beds, our oldest kids do chores but now have the opportunity to work some mornings down at the layer barn, learning about bio security, cleaning manure and picking eggs and getting paid for their effort.

On their next trip to town, they are taught they first need to buy something essential for themselves, like a toothbrush or something else that is essential with their money. With the rest of the cash, they can buy whatever they would like or use the money to replace the stolen sweets.

Our kids are learning that hard work pays off, not only at school but doing physical work as well. Good work ethic is a life skill that will serve them well into the future.

I’m so proud of my kids, they work hard and play hard. Just last week we had teams of field hockey kids compete in a tournament. Our senior boys won gold, our senior girls won silver and the junior girls won bronze. With this many children, you can have a lot of teams playing a lot of different sports all at the same time.

Father's Day Traditions in Eswatini, Africa

We have a tradition on Father’s Day here at Project Canaan. At the end of the church service, I get the opportunity to be called up to the front. Standing in front of all my children, two of the uncles dress me in the traditional Emahiya which is tied across my shoulders, a dress/kilt is wrapped around my waist, a furry headdress is placed on my head, a beaded necklace is put around my neck, my shoes are replaced with furry sandals. Once fully dressed, I’m handed a shield made of cow skin and a spear, then and only then, is the time we dance…

Yes, there is a little humiliation for this conservative Canadian, but the kids love it (and Janine falls over laughing).

Help a Father and Husband out?

If you would like to help a father and husband out this Father's Day, Janine has asked me to replace the front door on Emseni 6 and build a roof over the staircase from Emseni 6 to our dining call (Oasis 2) so our kids don't get soaked or slip when it rains. It’s going to cost $10,000 USD ($13,600 CAD) to get both of these items checked off my list.

You can click the button below to make a donation in lieu of a Father’s Day gift this year. Make a gift in honour or memory of your father, or the special father-figure in your life, and our team in Canada will provide you with a special, printable card you can give to the Dad in your life.

I wish all the fathers, and men who have stepped into a father role, a wonderful Father’s day!

Ian Maxwell

Father of 368 Children

CEO, Heart for Africa (Canada)


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