I was talking to one of our friends a few nights ago, sharing stories of what God had done in the haven while we served there. His reaction made me realise that we have been remiss at telling the stories from our last year.
During our time at Zanethemba Safe Haven we had the privilege of looking after 11, (six at any one time, with overlap) of the most wonderful children, ranging from 2 weeks old to 12 years of age. God changed our view of Him, and the world through these children. Through them we began to grasp the truth behind verses like Matthew 19:14:
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The faith of the children taught us and challenged us so much in our relationship with God. Through them we saw a glorious, loving, generous Daddy who constantly challenged us and our perception of what He could do. These stories are not about Kate and myself, they are about a God who loves and acts despite of us, and constantly used little children to grow our faith and teach us the true meaning of the Kingdom being close at hand.
We prayed with a lot of these children as they accepted Jesus into their hearts. It was so precious watching God’s love come into their lives. They accepted so quickly and fully, their child-like faith teaching us about dependency.
When we arrived at the haven two of the children that lived there were 8 and 11, years old, H and Nt. They had a beautiful relationship with Jesus. One night when we were praying with them before bed we asked them what they would like to pray for. They wanted to ask God for a laptop each. We asked them why they wanted a laptop hoping that their answer would be for school or something like that, which would shift this “want” into the need category. They answered: “to play games on!” What followed was an awkward conversation about how of course we would pray, but this is not a “need” and how we didn’t want them to be disappointed if they did not get laptops. We explained to them that God doesn’t always give us everything we “want”, but gives us what’s best for us when we ask Him. Thankfully they didn’t listen to our lack of faith, and they prayed that night for laptops. These siblings had been orphaned due to Aids, but they knew their heavenly Father. They prayed faith filled prayers, whilst we prayed half hearted prayers. Literally, the next day we received a phone call from a church staff member, to say that there were two laptops being donated for H and Nt so they could develop computer skills & play learning games. haha! As we had learnt not to tell the children about donations until they were in our hands, H and Nt prayed every night for a further week before receiving them.
Just before Christmas we asked the children what they would like. H answered “a remote control, for my truck”. I told him that I did not know where to get a remote on it’s own. He smiled and said “That’s ok, I’ll ask God.” A few days before Christmas there was a donation of a new remote control car, but it wasn’t a truck. We decided it was better than nothing and so wrapped it and gave it to H. He was so happy! The first thing he did was take the batteries out of the new car and put them in his truck… it worked perfectly.
One of the girls we had the privilege to see coming to Jesus was L, 6 years old, and such a leader. She would regularly lead the children in a game where they would take it in turns to “pretend to die”, (dramatic death scene would ensue). They would then pray for the “dead” child who would come back to life again (with major excitement & animation!) This was role play! One day in the middle of ramadan, we had a very caring Muslim volunteer from a local school, come to spend some time with the children. She was dressed in a burqa & immediately had the kids full attention. When the children offered her some food she explained that she was fasting, which led to a lot of questions. The outcome was that the children knew she did not worship Jesus, but “a different god”. L just looked confused by all this until the volunteer complained about having pain in her knee. L gave a big grin and jumped straight in, insisting that she pray for the knee. L went for it full on, unapologetically: “In Jesus’ name, pain get out!” the volunteer was instantly healed. After the volunteer left, we braced ourselves for more questions about this other “god”. All we got asked was: “why doesn’t Jesus show them that he is the only God?” There was no question in the children’s minds about the legitimacy of Jesus. Some of the kids prayed there and then that Jesus would show himself to our volunteer in the daytime, and at night in her dreams.
Another girl, ‘S’ (4 years old,) came down stairs one morning a week before she was due to move to her “forever home” and was singing around the living room. We had never heard this song before, S sang “Jesus is my home”, over & over. Whenever Kate asked her, “S where did you hear that song?” a big grin of joy filled S’s face, & she replied “After you put me to bed when I am on my own, the Lord comes into my room and sings it to me” there was a pause, and then the grin got even bigger. “He only sings to me when I am on my own…not when you’re there!”
When Y arrived at the home she was very sick. We were warned to expect the worst. Her bedroom was upstairs but she could only climb one or two steps before she was too tired to continue, and we would carry her the rest of the way up. She spent one to two minutes on the trampoline and then had to sleep for a few hours to recover. Everything seemed so overwhelming & we didn’t know what to pray for Y, other than “God! Help!” and we would sing over her whilst she slept, taking authority over all sickness & commanding it to leave her sick body. One of the blood tests, when she arrived, had a result of 1,800,000. It should have been below 40, or even better in a completely healthy person like you or I it would be 0. Medications were not staying down, instead of getting better she seemed to be getting worse, losing more weight etc. Then one day it was as if a switch was turned on. Y started to improve. She spent less and less time on the couch watching children play and more time playing. She started getting physio. she could climb more and more steps at bed time. It was not until she was re-tested and the results came back as 1,800 did we realise God had worked a great miracle. The Doctors very surprised by the huge improvement. Y started asking to be read the story of Jairus daughter (Mark 5: 22 -43) every night before bed. Y knew God had taken her from the brink, & restored her life to her! She gave her heart to Him one night at bedtime with such an expression of joy on her face.. I think His joy over Y trumped hers though 😉
While we were there another volunteer started coming, called D. One of the first conversations we had with her was D telling us she did not believe in God. She had been suffering from insomnia for years. We felt God say just to love and welcome D. She became a regular part of the family. After months of just doing life together with D, she witnessed the adoption of one of the babies we were looking after. That night she asked us “could even I… get to know this God of yours?” haha! We got to pray for her and to introduce her to Jesus. Afterwards we asked what was going on in our friend’s heart. She sat silently with tears streaming down her face & said “I have never felt love like this before… it just makes me want to cry”. The Holy Spirit touched her powerfully. We asked her what had caused her to come to ask Jesus into her life. Her response was love. The love she saw visibly and felt in the house and the love she saw between S and her adoptive parents. She could see God’s plan all throughout this adoption.
God taught us so much, about Himself & us. Before Zanethemba, often when we prayed we had already decided what we felt God was willing to do, and therefore we limited what we felt God could do. Sometimes we would let circumstances put us off. God is an amazingly grace-filled God wanting to meet our needs from the biggest to the smallest. He has taught us so much through these children in the last year. After the last year we know God’s call on our lives is to these children. The ones with no other options. He is good & longs to have a deep relationship with each of us.
Thankyou for standing with us. These stories would not have happened without each of your support, prayers & love. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou from the bottom of our hearts. At the moment we are finding that the orphaned spirit comes in many different forms. We are seeing people on a daily basis who live in Belfast who have not experienced their Father’s love for them, & who strive to find meaning in what they do. And the Father says: “come to me. Lay in my arms of love. Lay it all down & let me give you rest.” So come holy spirit.. break that orphaned spirit & replace it with your heavenly spirit of adoption. Show your children who they are, rooted and established in love. For the sake of those who have yet to taste and see that you are GOOD! Amen.