Prayer Letter: 24/11/11

We have been in South Africa for nearly two months now. We can’t believe that we have been here for so long & at the same time we can’t believe we have been here for such a short time. So much has happened it is hard to believe that it can be fitted into just 2 months!

We’ve had the same 6 children living with us since we arrived in Zanethemba (& our own 2!) It has been amazing to have God increase our hearts to accommodate the love He has for these children. They are such wonderful people it is easy to forget what they have been through. We have had the privelege of watching as God answered their prayers that even we thought would go unanswered, & as God’s lavish love has opened their hearts more & more to Him.

All the children in Zanethemba are placed here due to their home backgrounds. Due to confidentiality & the ongoing nature of the cases we cannot divulge any details about the children, however since Zanethemba started they have had children placed here due to neglect, abuse, abandonment & children having been orphaned. The children stay with us until their case has been resolved by social workers & the courts. In the past children who have lived here have been adopted, fostered, reunited with family or have gone to a children’s home. Each of the children currently staying with us need God to move on their behalf. These children need miracles.

Before we came out here we knew it was going to be hard hearing the individual stories etc. We reassured ourselves that if we didnt find it incredibly tough at times, then surely we were the wrong people to be doing this. But we were completely unprepared for the reality. Yes we’d read the books & heard the stories. We had even met some children from similar backgrounds. But it did nothing to prepare us for being primary carers for these children as we have grown to love them. We haven’t only heard stories of the children’s past, but are constantly confronted with it through family visits, the reactions of the children to everyday things that trigger memories, & driving through some of the areas that the children are from. Nothing prepared us for the number of tears that have been shed, or the frustration of injustice that has been felt.

Desperation & poverty slap you in the face every day in South Africa. From the people begging at the traffic lights, the houses built from scrap, to the people who knock at the front door asking for help. Jesus has been our anchor & rock, without Him we would not even have lasted even this long. He has supported us & guided us at every turn. He has shown us a little bit of His heart for these people, & even that amount was unbearable. They desperately need Jesus & His hope. It feels like we are doing so little in the face of the poverty & desperation that we see everyday. Without Jesus the need would have swallowed us up by now, but He is our guide, our support, our source, we endeavour to only do what we are called to do. Up until now whenever I read Matthew 9: 37-38 “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” I did not realise the urgency & truth in these words. Now it is the cry of our heart.

We know that during the O’Halloran’s prayer meeting for us, folk prayed that the kids would experience God through answers to bold prayers… 2 of the older kids asked God for laptops recently (we laughed!) The very next day we got a phonecall from church to say that 2 kids laptops had been given specifically for these children, so they could learn some computer skills & play educational games etc. He really is an extravagant God! We’ve also had the privelege of seeing 5 of the kids (all those who can talk!) ask Jesus to be their friend & to fill their hearts with his love & holy spirit. The kids have also been learning how to pray for each other & it has been lovely to see them step out in doing that. Now that the piano has arrived, we’ve enjoyed some time worshipping & Kate has really been enjoying the chance of getting to sing over the kids as they fall asleep… we also had a lot of fun this week building the kids up by asking them to come up with 4 positive adjectives that describe each child living in the haven. We then made a poster with these adjectives written beside each child’s name. It was lovely to hear the caregivers come up with suggestions & the kids fight/agree over who should be given which description! 🙂

At this time could you please pray for:

  • Praise God for His faithfulness & provision…
  • The children in the haven, that God would provide loving families for each of the children.
  • That God would heal the three children who currently have scabies
  • That God the “Lord of the harvest” would call more workers to the harvest.
  • God’s protection for us & our boys against sickness & spiritual attack
  • God’s wisdom as we step into the leadership role God has brought us here to carry out.
  • That God would help us to navigate missing friends/fam.
  • God’s authority in our lives when it comes to prayer & intercession…
  • The children & caregivers that they would experience more of God’s love & power.
  • That God would continue to help both boys process what it means to live here.
  • That intimacy with Jesus would always be our focus & vision…

Thank you for your time & prayers,

Richie, Kate, Joseph & Reuben

Collisions & Pools…

The pool, after a week of cleaning!

Last Tuesday our two worlds collided… the shipping arrived.  Joseph’s favourite item is definitely his train track. He was up from 5.30 a.m this morning playing happily playing with it. For Kate & I it was definitely a weird collision of two worlds. There were a number of items we just had to laugh at, as we tried to figure out why we had brought them. Over the last month we’ve got used to sleeping on a mattress on the floor & having very little personal stuff. Seeing everything we shipped over reminded us of life in Belfast, but also highlighted the differences. It’s hard at times to reconcile these things, as we realise again that we have come from incredibly privileged backgrounds. In Belfast we prided ourselves in “living simply”. However compared with the lives of people we are working with in Zanethemba, our simplicity is affluence. We have never had to send our boys to bed hungry, we have always been able to provide for their medical needs & we have always been able to provide a roof over their heads. The danger for us is that we won’t accept God’s goodness & kindness towards us, & choose instead to “do without” as others living around us don’t have. But the truth is poverty is a curse. We need to work with God to bring about an end to poverty, both spiritually & physically, but meanwhile not slip into a poverty mentality. We are living simply here & we are loving the freedom that comes with that. Thanks to all those who are supporting us financially & spiritually as we get to work with those who are in great need, providing both spiritual & practical help. We could not do it without God & you! Thank you so much…

Over the last month we’ve learnt about the different cultural values we are living amidst. We have started asking questions about the big festivals; Christmas, New Years, Birthdays & so on. It turns out that New Years is typically spent at the beach (in Xhosa culture). Every year however, people tragically drown as many cannot swim. Because of this we want to make sure that as many of the children as possible who come through Zanethemba leave with a basic level of swimming. We have found that all the kids staying with us at the moment, not only can’t swim, but also have a fear of water. So we are currently trying to clean the pool. We have spent hours scooping a years worth of rotting leaves from the bottom, we’ve treated it to try to clear the water & we have finally reached the stage shown in the picture. There are no longer toads, mozzie larvae, beatles, or tadpoles living in the pool. It’s finally at the stage where we can begin to call it a pool instead of a pond…

We’ve been taking opportunities to pray with the kids, and since the piano has arrived to worship together. The kids are learning that they too can hear God & experience Him for themselves & have been praying for one another before bedtime… it is always lovely to see the shock on their faces when God answers those prayers! We really do  pray for each of them that they hear God speak new names over each of them… not “abandoned, abused, neglected or orphaned” but “confident, wise, gifted, overcomer, beloved, chosen, child of God”. It is such a privelege to see their childlike faith grow & to see a hunger in their hearts to know him. Joseph has been asking more questions about God recently & has been praying with us also at bedtimes & showing way more hunger to read the bible than ever before, so thankyou for praying for him! Reuben just constantly loves people around him… 24/7! He’s always smiling & rarely cries. Our prayer for him is that his joy would grow & grow, that both boys would be the best receivers of his love & that it would be the Lord’s joy over Reuben that would be the strength of his heart.

Thankyou so so much for your prayers for us in this season of transitioning & learning lots of new things. We want to take more opportunities to pray also for the caregivers we work alongside every day, so we’re praying for good relationships with those amazing ladies & it has been lovely to see those relationships deepen over the last month. Gert & Eline have also helped hugely in us settling & we’ve felt a real love for them as we endeavour to focus on these kids & seeing the Kingdom come in their lives, together in unity with our project managers & friends. They are outstanding & we thank God for them & all that they’ve sacrificed for this vision!

For the King & his Kingdom,

Richie & Kate.

One month in…

We don’t even know where to start, over the last month everything has been changing daily. We have had a wonderful visit from Kate’s mum & have been truly blessed by her during her time here. We dropped her to the airport early this morning. Liz we will all miss you!

As of tomorrow (Monday 7th Nov) we are officially taking on the role of “house parents”. This is an awesome privilege but comes with huge responsibility. Currently there are 6 children in the haven – two 3 month olds, a 2-year-old, a 4-year-old, an 8-year-old, and an 11-year-old; plus Joseph & Reuben. We are waiting to be registered by social services to increase this number of children from 6 to 10 (plus J & R). The project managers (Gert & Eline) & the caregivers have been fantastic at supporting, teaching & encouraging us. Until now we have had 2 caregivers working with us to provide extra support as we settle into our new lives & learn our role. As we are taking on more of the responsibility this will drop to one caregiver.

We quickly realised that the idea of a “day off”, here, is not like a day off in the UK. We live, work & sleep in the same place. It is like living with extended family who need us to care for them. We love this dynamic. A big part of the ethos behind Zanethemba is for it to be as close to a regular God centred family as possible & not an institution. The challenge becomes for us to carve out some time each week for the “Cathcart family” in the midst of the “Zanethemba family”. Joseph and Reuben have been amazing & have really embraced being part of the Zanethemba family. God has really blessed us with them.

Everyday our day starts around 6 a.m. Breakfast is prepared & then we get the children washed, dressed & eating. The older two are dropped to school (& Joseph to play school) & while the others take part in a structured play time, the two babies are washed & dressed. At 10.00 everyone gets a snack. At 12 one of us leaves to pick up Joseph & the older two children. We aim to have lunch at 12.30 but the school run typically delays it. After lunch any child who still needs it goes for a sleep. In the afternoon there is another snack & time of play/walk/activity. The evening meal happens around 5.15pm, after which all the children get ready for bed; bathing, pj’s, stories, etc. At 6.15 we start getting all the children to bed except for the older two who do their homework & stay up until 8pm.

Everyday we aim for the children to get one to one time with both of us, some exercise, educational imput, & time to be children. Once a week we take them all (except the two babies) to the library & we are hoping to take the younger ones to the beach tomorrow morning.

God has been sustaining us through all of this. He has provided us with supernatural energy sustaining us when are energy level drop every evening. His love has been so real to us, & He has been teaching us daily providing wisdom & counsel. He has been settling us in our new life. We feel like we have settled in well & we are looking forward to finally getting our shipping so that we can make our room a bit more like home. We know that there is a lot more “settling” to do but God is here with us & His joy & peace are leading us on.