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We’re the Swarts. Welcome to a little piece of our life. We live in Southern Ethiopia. We have four kids, Elsa, Ezra, Daisy, and Dexter. They kind of steal the show around here.

Caleb grew up in East Africa. He’s the grandson and son of people who have dedicated their lives to this corner of the world. He had a regular boy’s own childhood–hunting and fishing and motorcycles and running free. It’s spoiled him for life. In a good way.

I grew up in Snohomish, Washington. The older I get and the longer I live away from Washington, the more convinced I am that it is one of the most beautiful places I know. Caleb and I met in school in Kenya when we were 15. I can tell you the story sometime. But loving and marrying an Africa-loving soul has changed my life completely. In a good way.

Right now we live and work in the far southwest corner of Ethiopia. We live along the Omo River, about 15 km from the Kenyan border where the river dumps into Lake Turkana. It’s hot. And remote. We live two days from where we buy our toilet paper. It is a beautiful place. The kind of place that we know we are blessed to get to call our own for this stage of our lives. We live next door to Caleb’s parents, who have been living in the area for the past 14 years. Having grandparents 100 meters away is a rare blessing in this type of lifestyle, one that I don’t neglect to thank God for every single day.

Caleb and his dad have an agriculture project. They build windmills for irrigation of small gardens. The windmills pump straight from the river and are owned by individuals who, with the windmill, have the ability to feed their families year-round and also have onions or bananas or tomatoes to sell. The people we live with are from the Daasanech tribe, a people group numbering around 50,000, spreading themselves up and down the Omo river and across the border into Kenya.

We also partner with the Kale Hiwot National Church, an Ethiopian evangelical denomination. We work with evangelists sent by KHC who lead the church and mentor the believers and local church leaders. We also do some informal health work. Meaning that I stand around and watch as Caleb’s mom (also a nurse) does everything from delivering premature twins to sewing up crocodile bites and treating baby after baby for diarrhea. (The Daasanech have a thing about diarrhea–they want treatment ASAP). I feel really privileged to be learning and watching from someone who has as much rural clinical experience as Caleb’s mom does.

The kids. Well, really the whole blog is about them so I won’t elaborate here. Everyday is learning to parent them in these unique circumstances, to feel the weight of responsibility of being a mom in a remote environment. Sometimes they can be maniac children, and always they light my life.

That’s us. We’re glad you’re with us in this.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Becky Kerr permalink
    February 19, 2011 3:48 am

    Dear Joanna and Caleb,

    I have known Joanna since she was a child and her parents, Terri and Mark Judy, attended the Snohomish Free Methodist Church, just recently renamed Cross View Church. I saw Joanna when she was visiting there several months ago. I see Terri and Mark when they come back on weekends from just outside Leavenworth. I was talking with Terri last Friday night at a going away dessert party for Arja and Larry Scott. Terri told me she had just an hour before learned that Joanna has contracted malaria. I assured her that your family is often in my prayers — as are Janell and Aaron. Terri gave me the address to check out your “blogs”. I’m too old for all this new fangled computer stuff. I had just learned how to email folks when my son suggested I should set up a “facebook”. I did and now it seems I have friends I don’t even know. And my grandkids want me to “text” them on their cell phones. Those little buttons are hard to read and I can’t get the hang of all the shortcuts. lol means “laughing out loud”? I thought it meant “lots of love ” so that’s what I read it as. What a crazy world. I envy what seems to me must be a slower pace of living than we have here. Joanna is right — Washington State is really God’s country. I love it here. I enjoy traveling but am always glad to be back here. Hope your malaria goes into remission or whatever it does when you aren’t having symptons anymore. Blessings and prayers, Becky Kerr

  2. Jeff Judy permalink
    March 2, 2011 5:07 pm

    This is my sister with whom I am well pleased !

  3. Janell Wood (Moore) permalink
    July 8, 2011 7:52 pm

    Wow, Joanna. I love your writing style, it makes me feel like I can see you and your family living where you do. I am so happy to hear about your ministry and what you are up to these days. I hope you don’t mind if follow your blog- it’s amazing!

  4. Sandy Lewis permalink
    February 10, 2012 3:15 am

    I had a few spare minutes to check out this “blog” thing I heard you were writing. It has been 2 hours and I am fascinated!! I feel like you are so much closer now. I see parts of your daily life. You are an amazing writer Joanna! I still need more knowledge about navigating the pages but it will come. I can’t wait to share this with Uncle Mark. We love you and thank you for sharing your blog.

  5. Shellee permalink
    September 26, 2014 3:18 pm

    You are an amazing writer Joanna! I hope to read your book one day (when you finish it)…
    Keep your eyes us and your pen in hand. He speaks through you my dear!
    Blessings to you and your family in your next “adventure”.

  6. January 13, 2015 2:05 am

    I enjoyed your description of your life there and appreciate your work. In 1975, I walked with a girlfriend from Arba Minch to Kalem – 16 days, a lot of burst blisters, followed the tracks of lions onj the trail; almost died of thirst (had to drink our urine as vultures landed around us on the Plain of Death !) . Later I became a hostage of Eritrean guerrillas for 5 months. Otherwise great memories of that part of the world. Let’s keep in touch. Brian Hazlehurst

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