Ana, the day after she arrived.

The word “Inkosazana” means princess in Xhosa. We cannot give the real name of the girl in these pictures, but lets call her Inkosazana… Ana for short. Ana arrived to Zanethemba having been brought directly from a state hospital, where she had been living for the last 6 months. She arrived to us with copious medications, imperative to her survival. Ana was very frail, very ill and very scared. We loved her the second she arrived. Her face had a beauty that I had never seen before, and whilst washing her that evening, (so delicately for fear she might break,) I noticed the amazing trust Ana displayed towards us… given that she had only known us a number of hours. This really amazed me. During the week that followed, Ana spoke in Xhosa to our wonderful caregivers, about her mum and how she missed her. Ana’s family were unable to take care of her.

Saying goodbye.

Ana was very sick when she arrived, and in the week that followed we felt things for her were getting worse. As we began to get to grips with caring for her I kept hearing a song being sung over Ana’s life, which I sang over her every night as she fell asleep. The song says: “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, Lord you are higher than any other. Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God…” This is Ana’s song. In all honestly, Ana’s arrival to the haven had broken us to pieces. We knew there were many more like her who pass away due to not getting the help they need. I remember kneeling beside her bed every night for the first week she stayed with us, and I would just weep and pray God’s resurrection life over her. One of the things we are so aware of living in this house is the authority the Lord has given us to speak life and healing, literally into the very bones, muscles, joints, and hearts of the children we have the privelege of caring for. We take that authority very seriously. We command the kingdom of darkness to retreat and the Kingdom of God to advance into the life of every child who stays here. We do this whilst the kids are sleeping, quietly so as not to waken them, but with full authority. Whilst praying that God would restore life and purpose again to Ana, I noticed her breathing getting deeper. On the rare occasion she would open her eyes. She would look directly into my eyes, and I would smile and whisper: “I’m talking with God”. She would smile and go back to sleep.

In the time she stayed with us, Ana’s strength improved immensely. I remember so vividly carrying her up the stairs on her first night staying with us. She couldn’t make it up by herself. By the end of her time here, thanks to the Lord’s amazing power in her life and God’s provision of an amazing physio, Ana was running up the stairs to bed every evening without the need of even a bannister! 🙂 This girl was a fighter through and through. Never complaining, she complied with her medical treatment. She loved the energy and vibrancy of the other children in the haven, and when she got too tired, would lie on the sofa and watch them play. Little by little however as she gained strength, she was the one exhausting herself on the bikes, trampoline, swings etc. We saw such courage in Ana.

As Ana’s first language was Xhosa, she began to learn English slowly. She learnt her alphabet and began teaching the other children around her, laughing as she lifted up her flashcards… “a is for apple!” eyes lighting up as they said it after her. Ana taught us Xhosa songs, and with each and every Doctor’s appointment we learnt her condition was improving. God was restoring her life right in front of her eyes. At bedtime we normally read a Bible story and pray for the kids. One night Ana asked me to read the story of Jairus’ daughter. Whilst reading it Ana just kept staring at the picture of Jairus’s daughter and when I’d finished the story she wanted it read again. Every night after this, Ana would specifically look for the story of Jairus’ daughter to be read. I asked her would she like to give her heart to this Jesus who can raise people from the dead. Her face lit up and I knew she understood that it had been Him who had given her life back. In front of the other kids she repeated a prayer asking Jesus to send His Spirit to live in her heart. Ana went to sleep that night full of joy.

“Is she your daughter?” someone would inevitably always ask me when Ana and I attended her hospital appointments. This question always both encouraged me – that I was caring for her well – but also saddened me that I had to smile sweetly, and answer “no. she’s my friend.” I would think about Ana’s mother and how utterly proud she would be if she could see her daughter now… beautiful, intelligent, courageous. I pray for her Mom that she would know God’s peace and know that her daughter is filled with purpose, peace and Jesus’ healing power and love. I pray that she would also get to experience His love for herself.

The reality of the fact that I could never be Ana’s Mum propelled me into more of God. I was crying out to Him in the secret place a few weeks ago, letting Him examine my heart and I said “God, I don’t feel I have enough love in my heart for all of these children…. please raise up more spiritual mothers and fathers!” My heart was broken before Him, in pieces because of Ana and the many others who need a mother and a father to demonstrate the love of their Heavenly Father. God’s response shocked me. He showed me a picture in my minds eye of my 2 boys, Joseph and Reuben, and He said ‘there is always enough’. In saying these words the Father was gently rebuking my fear of ‘lack’, or of not having enough love, not only for the children He is bringing into Zanethemba for us to love, but for my own two boys. Since we have arrived here, people have said things to me such as: “must you live in a haven?” or, “but your own children… they’re only babies themselves!” or “I really hope you don’t burn out” which I understood to be concern for our well-being as a family, and therefore kindness. But God was now showing me that I had allowed these words to take root in my heart, and a fear had settled there that my own boys might only get the “dregs” of my love and affection for them. That they could significantly lose out, by us choosing to live in a safe haven. Whilst I know this is always a risk, God was quietening my fears of ‘not having enough love’, with His simple words: ‘there is always enough.’

Right there and then I felt Him increase my capacity to receive and give love. He told me again those words I needed to hear: “I LOVE YOU!” I felt a supernatural strength in weakness that could join with Paul when the Lord said to Him: ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. I want to able to boast in my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me in order to be able to love these children.  He has set me free from the fear of not doing a good job with my own 2… I can be still and know that following the call God has placed on my life is the best way to love my kids, as long as intimacy with Jesus, Richie and the boys are higher callings. God is so so good that He frees us up to love without hangups. To love without end, just as He does. To increase the size of our hearts to hold more capacity to both receive and to give His love. Extravagant, never-ending, ludicrously generous, besotted-with-His-kids Father God 🙂

As for Ana, her social worker found a ‘forever home’ for her in a foster care setting. We have said goodbye and although this was painful we’re hopeful we’ll get to see her again one day. We heard on Saturday that Ana is starting her very first week at school this week, and I smile when I think of her telling the teacher the words she now knows, or the friends in her classroom who I know will love her immediately. Ana is a living sign and a wonder of God’s hope, love and power in the world. Thankyou Father that your love knows no bounds, in any of our lives. Thankyou that you are love without end…