When I (Richie) was 15 God forcefully broke into my world and rescued me. It was a world without direction, without joy, without point, without hope. I was the lowest I have ever been. I was supposed to be spending a weekend at Autumn Soul, a Christian youth weekend, in N.Ireland, but I was planning on ‘disappearing’ until after the bus left so I wouldn’t be made to go. I didn’t know if there was a god or not but neither did I care. If there was a god I felt that he could not be a loving one. How could he stand by and let my life look like it did? so I didn’t want to know him.
My sister talked me into going and so during worship, I experienced God’s tangible presence for the first time. God broke the hard exterior that I had developed in order to try and protect myself. I realised that God is a loving God and always has been. He had given everything for me on the cross, but I had been pushing Him away. I hadn’t let Him into my life so He could not change it in any way. That day the circumstances in my life didn’t change but I did. God gave me friendship with Him, a hope, a joy, a purpose, and a direction. I experienced the love of God, a love like no other, a love far deeper than any other, a love that gives hope, joy and value.
That day God started to reveal His calling and dream for my life. I realised that God does not want people to feel as alone, lost, and worthless as I had. I knew that I wanted to spend my life making a difference to young people who felt like this. I never dreamt that God’s calling was going to move me to Northern Ireland let alone half way across the world. I had some vague idea of becoming a youth worker and trying to help by working in that field.
In 2003, as part of my youth work training, I got to work with street children in Pietremaritzburg near Durban in South Africa for a few months. While working providing food, care and love for these children I clearly heard God ask me to be a father to the fatherless who would point towards Him, the perfect Father. During this trip God was shaping my future in a way I didn’t realise at the time. Since then I have realised God is calling me to work with the poorest of young people both physically and spiritually. While I was in Maritzburg I started to ask God what His dream from my life was, and that dream has continued to get bigger, and go deeper.
Kate and I are called by God to care for the children He is going to send our way, whilst going deeper in relationship with Him. Our move to work in Zanethemba is one in a long line of steps into God’s dream for our lives. We feel Zanethemba is going to be a training ground. We will be looking after children who desperately need God’s love and care. In the future we want to replicate the work done in Zanethemba by setting up new havens, caring for more children, setting up new programmes to reach the children who never make it as far as the havens, who live on the streets. To reach these children, because only He can make a difference in their lives and only He can provide for all their needs.