Love is patient.


words on one of our haven bedrooms.

I used to think that patience was a characteristic held only by those who had nothing else to do. When Paul spoke to the church in Corinth about love being patient, I would swiftly move on to the rest of the list. Love is patient (“well yes, God is merciful and wants all His children to know Him…but I’m not God”). Love is kind (“yes, I can see the point of me being kind. Please make me kind Lord”). As I would read through the rest of the descriptions of love, they all made sense to me. Except patience. At best I thought it sounded passive.

After all, there’s a lot that needs doing in the world, right? We are the body of Christ and so until we move, Christ as the head cannot have His way on the earth. We have been given the authority of Christ to bring the Kingdom and to see heaven come to earth. Why be patient, when there’s so much needing done? I was not aware that this was how I used to think, until we received Nkosi into our family and hearts.

Nkosi arrived into our world, in March of 2014. The 4th child to come home to us. On the first day we met in hospital I knew that he would change our lives forever. Aware of his severely malnourished and cerebral palsied state we knew that his life would be full of challenge. But we felt absolutely no fear. This is one of the many ways God taught us to trust Him. The absence of fear is the presence of the full, deep and pure love from God for ourselves and for others. In this case it was for Nkosi.

We were full of faith for this frail little boy. Of course we believed he would walk! Of course we believed he would live a full life! The doctors told us Nkosi would not live to reach teenage years, but of course we knew our miracle-working God would prove them wrong! On the day Nkosi arrived home to us I had a vision of him standing in heavenly places with Jesus. He looked like Mandela in his youth. A strong, smiling, confident, authoritative leader. I felt that this was Nkosi’s spirit man and that no matter how hard things got, we should always remember that in his spirit Nkosi was happy we’d brought him home that day.

Nkosi. Joy-filled, worshipping, miracle boy.

Nkosi. Our joy-filled, worshipping, miracle boy.

Nkosi lived for 19 months in our home with us. There were many challenges and we watched him overcome many of them. It was always two steps forward one step back. Like a dance. Nkosi taught us patience and endurance. After he received life saving surgery in August 2014 his health improved dramatically, and we felt we would have many years ahead with our beautiful boy. When he developed severe abdominal pain we discovered Nkosi had a bowel obstruction. It was agreed that an exploratory surgery would be carried out first thing next morning. My daughter & I said  goodbye to Nkosi the night before his surgery, confident that he would overcome yet another obstacle. Nkosi went to be with his Jesus at 2a.m the night before this ever took place.

Nkosi taught me the power of forgiveness as I felt God gently comfort me at his funeral. I said “but God…do you not remember the times I cried out to you? Frustrated in the small hours of the morning….tired, disheartened and overwhelmed?” The Lord replied “as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far I have removed your sin from you……. I don’t remember it. You are made of dust. I know you in your weaknesses, just as I knew Nkosi in his. You are forgiven.” I had no idea God could forgive me for my moments of resentment and frustration with this little boy, whom we loved very much. I struggled to forgive myself for despairing at times. But Nkosi taught us to receive love from God, as we needed Him like never before. “I can’t do this!” was often my complaint before the Lord. “I know you can’t” came the reply. “That’s why you need me”.

For this reason, Nkosi’s life although full of challenge, led us to Jesus on a daily basis. People wherever we went were drawn to him. They gave their lives to Jesus, one after another including Nkosi’s Mum and brother when they saw the joy that he carried. More still on our repeated hospital visits were healed and saved.

When they rang to inform me that he had gone to heaven, we went to the paediatric ward and then to the mortuary to say goodbye to Nkosi. They know me at the mortuary because I have prayed for the dead a few times (with full permission!) in the last few months. They now saw me visiting for another reason. Each time I had prayed for the dead in the mortuary before (obeying the scripture when Jesus commanded us to: “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers & cast out demons” – Matthew 10), I had always sensed fear in that room. But the day I saw Nkosi there, I had no fear in me whatsoever. I felt nothing but love from God for Nkosi. God broke a fear of death in me & in Nkosi’s Mum that day, as we wept, kissed him and held him. He looked just like he was sleeping.

I asked the Lord to bring him back to life, so that I could say goodbye.“We’re having too much fun” God replied to my heart. I knew in that moment that Nkosi’s life had been taken by the Lord. God wanted to bring him home because of His mercy, to Nkosi and to us. I got reminded of Enoch in Genesis 5. “Enoch walked faithfully with God, then he was no more, because God took him away”. Nkosi was a worshipper, and in our many car trips up and down to hospital we would worship in the car together. Now whenever we worship on the earth I know that we are joining with Nkosi. We will see him perfect in his new body again. I know I shall recognise him & I look forward to that day.

Nkosi Funeral

At Nkosi’s funeral we worshipped and danced around his coffin… death where is your sting?

But for now, God has chosen to put me on a journey where I am learning to trust and to be actively patient. With each child there are challenges. Relentless patience says: “I trust you” to God. It is the one gift we can give Him here on this earth that we will never be able to give Him in heaven. There we will see Him face to face, and there we shall have no need to trust any more, for we shall see Him in His fullness. Nkosi has taught me patience, child-like trust and dependency upon God that I could not otherwise have learnt. It is the Lord who gives, the Lord who takes, and the Lord who resurrects again from death into fullness of LIFE. Amen.

The Lover’s Arms.

It turns out that the second year living in another country is very different from the first. Things become more real. The adrenaline wears off. Sustainability becomes our first priority. New relationships that are deep and lifelong have a history to them. Older friendships back home have greater strength, because there is a sense in which God is weaving all our lives together, in Him. From Irish soil to the fabric of South African life. This reminds us daily that our lives are not about us. God is placing His children in families and we get to join Him. It is worth seeing. He is writing His story and the Godhead are the main characters.

Behind our public Penuel face of building 2 new children’s homes, lies some personal pain. We said goodbye to dearly beloved friends and family in Ireland (who are the best any girl could ask for) and we miss them. When Jesus said “come, follow me” to Peter and Andrew, they left their nets immediately. There is a cost attached to this life that we have seen in the last 6 months. Distance from loved ones. We have had to trust Jesus with our family as first my Mum and recently Richie’s Dad, became critically unwell and required emergency care. In both scenarios Jesus radically saved their lives and both are now journeying paths of recovery. Jesus is so kind to allow us to have more years with our beloved parents as part of our lives. We are forever grateful to Him for this.

Our decision to pursue adoption of Mamosa, means that we cannot travel with her until this is finalised. As such, Richie flew back to Ireland alone to be with his Dad when he became unwell. During times when Richie and I are apart, the Lord reveals Himself to me as my first love. Two months before I first met Richie, I was worshipping in my bedroom and the Lord gave me a vision of an engagement ring. Isaiah 54 says “The Lord your Maker is your husband”. I knew in that moment that He was asking me to marry Him. At this time I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to be married. The Lord was asking me to lay down my desire for marriage, and to receive Him as my husband. My first love. The only one who can be more than enough for me. Who will always love me perfectly. I said yes to Jesus that day, knowing that He was asking me to be satisfied in Him alone. That day I received the fullness of His love for me. I believe this is the heart of God for every believer. He desires to be a husband to us. This is why the Church is called the bride of Christ, and not the friend or the disciple. One of our staff members during a time of prayer recently asked Jesus the question: “how much do you love me?” Jesus replied: “enough to marry you.” It was a beautiful moment for this “single” mother of two to realise she was no longer single. She now had the most faithful and loving husband in the universe.

I married Richie because he was the one most like Jesus whom I’d ever met. On our wedding day, we locked eyes and exchanged vows. During those short minutes I had an image of Jesus standing behind Richie: beaming! I don’t think Richie or I took our eyes off each other once that whole day. We didn’t see anyone else in the room as we exchanged vows before a crowd of witnesses. We only saw one another. So it is with Jesus and His bride. You. When He looks at you, you are all that He sees. And He loves what He sees! My prayer is that you would always see yourself in the reflection of His eyes. Psalm 32 says “I will guide you with my eye”. We need close eye contact with Him. I am learning that we are called first to be lovers of Jesus. Not servants nor even friends. Lovers. I am beginning to grasp hold of who I am, in this regard. This is not arrogance, it is a revelation of how much Jesus loves His bride. That He would betroth Himself to us in such a way that is inseparable and completely free from fear.

Jesus told us that to find our life, we’ve got to lose it. We are crucified with Christ to our sin and old ways, and then we are resurrected. Hidden in the resurrection life and love of Jesus. This means that no-one can kill us. Our lives are already laid down! If someone tries to take our life, then we get the privilege of leading them to Jesus. If they kill us, then we are more alive than we’ve ever been, with Him in heaven. I am learning that it is possible to live like this. Completely free from fear! The enemy is the father of lies and therefore fear is a lie. We need to stop listening and believing lies as the bride of Christ, and instead choose perfect love which casts out all fear. On our wedding day Richie and I were not worrying about divorce, sickness or the future. We were in love! The posture of the body and bride of Christ is to simply be in love. Permanently so.

I am more in love with Richie now after 9 years of marriage than I was on our wedding day. He has become more like Jesus,  so I am more in love with him. Richie has been God’s greatest gift in this life to me. Those of you reading this who would call yourself “single”, need to know that you are not. You are married to Jesus. He is the best lover you could ever have. Jesus reminded me whilst Richie was at home visiting His Dad that when you are in love you behave completely differently to your life as it once was. You sleep less. You eat less. You are happy all the time. You do things you would never have done before… all because you want your lover to grasp how much you love them.

When Richie and I started our relationship we would send each other text messages that always ended with around a million “xoxoxoxoxoxox” (those). These messages were always long. When it came to saying goodbye to one another after we’d spent time together, one of us would stand at the doorstep of their house & the other of us would stand at the car or walk away, all the time doing scissor jumps. The reason for this was that we were physically making the X shape out of our bodies, for the other person to understand how much we loved each other. It was also a giving up of dignity or respectability, for the sake of the other. A way in which we were saying to each other “you are worth me becoming undignified for. This is how much I love you. Enough to become a spectacle of love for you. So that you would understand how deep this love I have for you truly is”. Richie & I still do a few little scissorjumps whilst saying goodbye to each other in airports, once we’re through the security gate. No-one else watching us in the airport understands… they might even think we’re nuts. But therein lies the beauty of love. We don’t care. We are in love. And that’s all that matters to us both.

So it is with worship of Jesus. As the bride of Christ, we must live in a place that doesn’t care what others around us are either thinking, or not thinking. All that matters is that Jesus is seeing a demonstration of worship whereby He understands just how deep the love that we have for Him goes. He must understand how much we love Him. Sometimes worship looks undignified. The reason for this is because we are crazy, head over heels in love.

With Jesus.

He is beautiful.

(and you are made in His image).

So…  do you want to fall in love?

This song is by Ray Lamontagne. To me it sums up perfectly the dialogue between two lovers who cannot be apart.

Our Home.

Many thanks must go out to Pete O’Halloran and his amazing son-in-law Eyram & son Mike, for expertly producing this little synopsis of what we do in South Africa. We are delighted with this short film 🙂 More Lord!

Redemption Day.

Growing up nearly 2 years older than my brother John, ensured that for the first 10 years of life, I believed girls could be bigger and stronger than boys. As John was my first playmate in life, we used to wrestle on the floor like boys and play “shop” like girls, intermittently throughout any given afternoon. “Wrestling” continued up until the age of about 10 when all of a sudden, a red mist descended as I tried to headlock my brother. In attempting this, reality hit me. At the age of 8 John was now stronger than me. This had to be the best day of John’s life. He let me in on this by grappling my arms behind my back, sitting on them and walloping my head many times with the hardest cushion in our living room. He laughed like he’d been dreaming about this day his entire life. hee hee! Love you John 😉

So now, instead of believing girls could be strong based on life with my brother… I had to rely on my favourite TV show, Cagney & Lacey. Two police detectives working together in Manhattan, solving crimes. The reason I tell you all of this, is to say that yesterday was my first “Cagney & Lacey” type of day in PE. It was beautiful from beginning to end. I write this blog because I don’t ever want to forget it.

I wanted to be Lacey (the one on the left).

I arrived to the Children’s Court Magistrate with our sibling group at 9a.m. These children have been living with us now for many months but their Social Worker had not managed to locate their biological Mum during this time. The children had been removed from home months ago by the police, due to a crisis. A letter was sent to this Mum’s home address informing her about the court date. And she arrived! 🙂

After many reconciliatory tears, we entered the Court Room. The Court Judge recommended that as it has taken this length of time to locate Mum, we must bring her to home affairs in order to procure ID books for the children today. (Their homebirths were never registered). However, the problem here is that Mum’s birth was also never registered, and she has been estranged from her biological mother (aka “Granny”) for almost 10 years. The only solution here, is to find this Granny, and bring her, along with Mum & children, to Home Affairs to have their births registered. Here, ID books can be issued to Mum & the children. The Mother and estranged Grandmother’s surnames are different, so an affidavit must first be procured from a local police station confirming Mum & Granny to be biological mother & daughter. Then, we must attend Home Affairs to get the ID books which will in turn allow these children to get a birth certificate, attend school, procure work etc.

I look at the Social Worker and the Social Worker looks at me. Can we do this? Granny lives in Motherwell. A township location with a population of at least 100, 000 situated 30 kms away. The queues in Home Affairs are notorious… will we get there on time with Mum, Granny & kids? It’s raining outside so that is on our side. Less people travel to Home Affairs in wintery conditions… this might just work. All of a sudden, my Social Worker friend & I are… Cagney & Lacey 🙂

It is now 11a.m. Home affairs closes at 3.30 but sometimes if there is no-one waiting to be seen, it closes early. The pressure is on. Whilst awaiting the Court Order paper work, I pray for the children’s Mum. She weeps as the love of God begins to fill her heart and I can see shame beginning to break off this young woman.  In broken Xhosa I tell her that I can see she loves her children. That Jesus loves her and her children very much. That by enabling her children to get ID books and having their births registered, this now means their whole futures are about to change. I tell her she is a good mother because she is doing the best she can for her children. She weeps and says in Xhosa “my Mom hates me”. I say “your Mom will be proud of you when she sees you doing the right thing for your children. You have beautiful children. They are a blessing to you.” More weeping. God is doing something special here.

We load kids, Mum & Social Worker into the car. 1st stop = lunch for the kids. Our Social Worker grabs food they can eat in the car & we start pushing the pedal to the floor to weave through traffic on our way to find Granny in Motherwell township. I drive like a taxi driver. Mum weeps feeding her youngest in the back of the car… at 12.36pm we arrive in Motherwell. This whole time we have been praying for reconciliation and redemption to reign in this family. We arrive at Granny’s house. She is not there, but the children’s Aunty is. She gets into the car and directs us to the house Granny is currently living in. We arrive at the house 1.15pm. Granny is now no longer living there, but there is another Aunty and she assures us she knows the whereabouts of Granny. She climbs into the car (there are now 8 people in our 7 seater!) and we drive as fast as we can in the rain, to Granny’s house.

We find Granny. She is now the 9th person to sit in our 7 seater… squashed up close beside her daughter that she has neither seen nor spoken to in nearly 10 years. God has a sense of humour. Bar the children’s voices there is silence in the car… and a lot of squashing and rearranging of bodies as we now have to return two Aunties to their homes. They cannot walk as it is too far to walk in the rain. A rainbow appears & I remember the song “whenever you see a rainbow… remember God is love”.

We drop the two sisters home & then make our way to the police station to have an affidavit made out confirming Granny & Mother’s biological relationship. In the car, Cagney (my new best friend) & I pray that we are going to get to Home Affairs on time. It’s 2.30pm. In the car, I thank Mum & Granny for doing the right thing & helping these beautiful siblings to get their ID numbers. They exchange a few short sentences in Xhosa, with tears. Granny has never been introduced to any of her grandchildren before. By the time we fetch Granny’s ID book (from yet another house in Motherwell Township) and get the affidavit signed, it is 3.15. Due to pot holes, rain and rocks in the township roads, our car now has more than a few extra scrapes along the bottom. In some ways I am glad. They will help me remember this day.

Cagney and I (Lacey) admit the painful truth that we are never going to get to Home Affairs in 15 minutes. Granny then informs us that as Motherwell township is so big, they have their own Home Affairs department! YES! Cagney & I start praying in tongues and the whole car is now praying we get there on time. Granny gives directions in broken English (GPS is useless in Motherwell). We arrive at Home Affairs by 3.29pm!!!!!! We are the only people there (because of the rain) & so we are attended to immediately! What a day!!!! The children’s Mum was able to make an application for an ID number there and then & in a number of short months, our siblings are going to receive their ID numbers…

Praise the Lord! He is good & He restores all things!!! Not only are these children now able to receive registration of their birth, but this family once fractured with years of estrangement, have now worked together as a team, for the sake of their children/grandchildren.

This is the redemptive power of God. This is healing. This is restoration. God is the God of family & the God who heals all of these relationships for the sake of the children & for the sake of their parents.


We then left Granny, Mum & Social Worker (Cagney) home. I will never forget how brightly that rainbow radiated in the sky, on the day God made a way for this family to begin the journey of redemption.

2015-06-04 10.43.58

A poster on the wall of the Children’s Magistrate Court, stating: “If we can heal the family, we can heal the world”.



For some, Church can feel like a friendless, loveless and lonely place. Growing up, I felt that I would not choose to attend Church, given any measure of choice. Meditating on the roast dinner my Mum lovingly prepared for us every Sunday got me through manys a Sunday service. Tradition and religion made me feel so uncomfortable as a child that I often kept the 50p my parents gave me for the “collection plate”, and spent it on sweets later on in the week (not proud of that memory!)

Later, through school friends, and my parents’ encouragement, I had my first ever tangible experience of the love of God. I was 15 years old and as I went to bed late that night having given my life to Jesus, I awoke the next morning to find life had taken on a new sheen. As I began to explore the depths of God’s love, it was like I was seeing everything through new eyes. I knew His love must be changing my heart. It was like nothing I had experienced before.

When I asked the question “why Church?” I was taught that she is the family of God. In the same way families can be broken and dysfunctional, the church can be also. But Jesus loves her. He has compassion on her. She is His bride. His idea and design, that the world might see the manifold wisdom of God by bringing many different people together and knitting them together into one family. In that family, the glory and beauty of God can be seen. To my utmost surprise, God began to birth a love in my heart for His Church.

In Ephesians 5 we see that Jesus and His Church are in a family relationship. Just like a marriage. In the same way marriage can be unhealthy, so Church can also be. However we are still called to love this bride, as Jesus does. He lays down His very life for her, so that the rest of the family could come home and be connected again. He sees the beauty of what the Church can become… glorious, spotless, holy and without a single fault. When Church is led like a business, or an organisation that simply wants something from people, it is unhealthy and people get hurt. But God brought the Church into creation, not to be an organisation, but a family. God is all about family.

The purpose of a family is to communicate love. True families are born out of love & when children are born, love begins to grow and develop. As there are challenges in a natural family when children come along, so the Church also faces challenges. We see genealogies in the Bible. Lists and lists of names that are important, because everyone is introduced as somebody’s son or daughter. God describes Himself as the Father to the fatherless. I love this, as our heart in loving and serving the children in our care is that the Church would be known for welcoming them, not just “us”. The true identity of the Church is to partner with what God the Father is already doing, just as Jesus did. By welcoming these children, we get to see Him place them into families, as His hands and feet on the earth. His bride. His Church.

Getting ready for Easter Camp

“Easter Camp” – 350 people from churches all over the city, gather to camp together.

God’s love develops something amongst us as a family, when we live out this call to love the Church. It is worth seeing. As God’s love is poured into our hearts the world sees what the family of God looks like. I absolutely love the fact that when people visit our home they see God, as they see His family. We rarely need to “preach the gospel”. People see it lived out, as the Church responds to her calling to place the lonely in families. One of my all-time-favourite-memories of what we do here, was having a biological father stand beside the cot where his son slept in our home, saying to us “this house is so different to how I thought it would be. I can’t offer my son this”. This particular child’s mother had abandoned her child. I told this father that the difference was Jesus, & asked if he wanted Jesus to come and live in his heart too. This father stood beside his son’s cot and with tears, received the love of God into his heart. Weeks later the law caught up with this father and he was put in prison. But he went there with the love of God in his heart. Before he did, this father consented to his son being fostered by a loving Christian family who had been waiting for years for a second child. Perfect Father God, covering all our brokenness with love. Providing a one year old boy with a family who love him entirely.

 It is impossible to fulfill your God-given calling without the wider body of Christ. We simply need each other. Church, like marriage, is a great way the Lord uses to teach us how to get good at forgiving one another. The danger in abandoning the Church is that we isolate ourselves, much like orphans. We become self-reliant. It is within the context of Church family that we realise what sonship and daughterhood truly looks like. In the same way God can restore relationship within our biological families, so we can discover a love for the Church as we see that no matter how messy we get, God cannot stop loving us.

Often we judge “the Church” who in reality, are brothers and sisters who love God & want to please Him. They too have hurts and brokenness. They too are driven at times by a need for love and approval, (which we are too at times, if we’re honest). We are the Church. He loves us, in order that we can love the family of God into growth and developmentfor the sake of the world. Jesus walked in the fullness of the love of God, and He regularly attended Church and engaged in worship with people who misunderstood and mistreated Him. Some of these people wanted Him dead! But Jesus was able to look with compassion at the people He worshipped alongside. Forgiveness and compassion in His heart, kept Jesus free from bitterness.

John 13 says “your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples”.. and so as we learn to live in God’s love together as family, as sons and daughters of God, in the context of Church, others will want to live in that love too. Receiving His love enables us to have love for one another. God wants us, the Church to become all that we can be because we are birthed and nurtured in love. Not in rules, but in love. Because that is what we were all made for.

If Jesus is teaching us to forgive as we read this… can we also forgive the Church? At times Church can fail our expectations, but Father God is able to give us all the love and understanding that at times the Church cannot. If you wish to forgive the Church then pray with me:

Father, thankyou that you set the lonely in families. Teach us how to be family, that the love you’ve poured into our hearts might nurture the Church. We know that the mess and dysfunction in Church is because family lives are broken, but we know that it’s you who puts us back together again. Right now Father we forgive our brothers and sisters, and ask for forgiveness when we have judged them and held onto bitterness in our hearts. Teach us to walk as sons and daughters alongside our brothers and sisters. That in your Church your wisdom and authority would be displayed, and people would see the love that exists between Christ and the Church. We pray that people would look in and see that we truly are the household of God. Thankyou that no matter how messy we get, you still love us Father. Thankyou for your goodness, kindness and faithfulness. Amen.


2014-11-30 15.34.48What a loaded title hey? 😉 This title evokes many things in all of us, if we’re honest. Expectations, hopes, dreams, desires, disappointments, fear and insecurity. When I was 15 and met Jesus for the first time, He showed me a picture in my mind’s eye of myself surrounded by children, none of whom looked like me. He was inviting me to look after them. At 18, frustrated about where my life was going & having fallen head over heels for the “wrong guy”, I asked Him if marriage was ever going to be a part of my future any time soon? He gave me Isaiah 54: “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child, burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour, because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.” In this same chapter Isaiah goes on to say “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is his name”.

“oh grrrreat!” I distinctly remember thinking! Eventually & somewhat reluctantly I surrendered my “right” to have my own children, in order to have the children He was going to give me (there were tears, haha). Despite laying down my desire to be married, I knew the children I would care for needed a father figure, and I still had a desire to be married. I had served in children’s homes that did not have a father figure & in my experience it didn’t seem to work. Although I knew I was called to parent vulnerable children, I never presumed that I would ever be married in order to do it… in retrospect, I was too scared to hope.

Cue Richie walks into my life. Upon hearing a friend’s words “you need to meet Richie… all he ever talks about are street children…” I had a sense that I could be on the verge of falling in love with this man. This happened imminently & we were married 14 months later 🙂 “Motherhood” then hit me like a brick square between the eyes at the age of 28. As a student nurse during my maternity placement, I’d written essays on breastfeeding, natural labour and birthing pools. Arriving home with our newborn Joseph after 10 days in hospital, I felt like motherhood was a conspiracy no-one had told me anything about. I proceeded to phone “La Leche” every day for at least 2 months, to ask them why my child was still not sleeping, despite my perpetual demand feeding. When they invited me to their Christmas work night out, I realised I had to stop phoning them. (Sorry Sarah!) At ante-natal class, I had been adamant that I was not going to have a caesarean section. After 3 days in hospital with no sign of baby, they sent me for an emergency section and I was ecstatic.. (at this point beginning to envision myself at the age of 50, with incredibly swollen ankles, & still pregnant!) In the end I would have let them chop my head off if it meant Joseph was finally going to be delivered. He was the most beautiful baby-boy-called-Joseph I had ever seen… Richie and I were smitten from the moment we first set eyes on him.

Breastfeeding was hard at the beginning but we got there eventually. When Reuben was born 2 years later (caesarean #2) I was such a pro at breastfeeding that every morning my husband & I awoke to a milk bed-bath scene… it was a sticky experience altogether, and not pleasant for either of us. Reuben thankfully didn’t seem to mind, which let’s face it, was all that mattered at that point. Reuben was the most beautiful baby-boy-called-Reuben I had ever seen. We all fell in love with him from day one.

Fast forward now to 2013… we have been living in South Africa for 10 days, with our now 5 and 2 year old boys. We are working with an NGO & get a call to bring 3 newborns home from hospital so that a loving family can adopt them. I set eyes on a 10 day old baby girl, fast asleep & my heart shouts at the top of it’s voice “THAT’S MY DAUGHTER!” with exactly the same level of ferociousness I had following the birth of my sons. Looking at her, I felt like a lioness about to pounce on anyone that could possibly bring harm to her. I had never felt like this about any of the other babies in our care before. I asked the meaning of her Sotho name. “Grace” came the answer. Grace is my middle name.. I felt peace fill my heart along with declarations that she would have a strong voice, that she would be a reconciler, that she would sing & speak out for those whose voices could not be heard. God was silently filling my heart with a fierce, fierce love that I could now recognise was for my daughter.

This was not at all convenient timing. In South Africa, you need to be living in the country at least 2 years before you can adopt a child. Having just arrived in South Africa 10 days ago, this was all happening very quickly. My amazing husband has a definite gift of governance & is very good at setting long term aims and objectives, (and not jumping into things quickly). I do not have this gift. “Richie’s going to say no,” I thought. I wept silently on the way home in the car… watching our beautiful, sleeping, peaceful child in the back seat. We asked God for families for each of the babies. Each of those 3 children have since been placed in families. Miraculously, 8 months later, this baby girl was placed into ours.

When we got home I told Richie “I know you’re going to say no… but…” (*tears*) He agreed to pray and to meet her. Richie fell in love with our daughter at first glance…She has been living with us for the last 6 months as our daughter & although it took God moving many mountains for her to be placed into our care.. she has now completed our family. I have heard adoptive parents saying “the love you have for a birth child and an adopted child, is different”. In our case I have not found this to be true. It’s the same love. Just as fierce, just as ferocious as that of a lion with his or her baby cub. “Heaven help ANYONE who gets in the way of this child receiving my love!“… is pretty much the general gist of things.

One of the things that has obviously been different, is the fact that our daughter doesn’t look like my husband or I on the surface. Or at least, that’s what I used to think. When she bonded with us, she opened my eyes to the fact that she can receive love from us, without any of the barriers that we as adults often see. She just sees love. I couldn’t breastfeed her (*I did try – expressed 1 ml – she was at this point drinking 600ml per day = fail*)… we had to try another way of allowing her to get skin to skin, which she had never before received & which does help with bonding. Taking showers together meant she could hear our heartbeat, get skin to skin & the water served as a great distraction so she could play with the jets instead of focusing on the “this is new & I’m not familiar with it” feeling which was previously causing her to push us away. Now, she loves skin to skin and often falls asleep on my chest, snuggling her head under my chin.. just like my boys who were breastfed used to do. Now, what we see when we look at this beautiful child, is that she looks very much like us. She has the same eye colour as Joseph & I. She has a squidgy tummy & tickly knees like me. Her eyes scrunch up the same as mine when she laughs and she absolutely adores food (like our entire extended family!) She also sings like her Daddy.

One of the things the word “motherhood” used to bring up in me, before our daughter arrived, was inadequacy. No matter how hard I tried I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make the grade. I knew this deep in my heart and felt it keenly at gatherings such as “mother & toddler groups” (*shivers*), and around other parents I looked up to. When I looked around, I seemed to do parenting totally differently to anyone else. I hadn’t met any other parents of newborns who were fostering or planning to live in a place of safety in a foreign country with other people’s children. Mums often gravitate towards other mums who do things similarly to themselves. I haven’t met anyone who has done this journey the same way as me. This used to make me feel insecure, but then one day it hit me… a bit like a brick square between the eyes… we’re not meant to follow other Mums… we’re meant to follow Jesus. It’s never going to look the same for any two people. Nor should it. 

Receiving our new beautiful baby daughter into our care at 8 months, was a whole new growth and expansion of love in my heart, but also a whole new level of insecure. Complete strangers have stared and shaken their heads at me in public. One asked “could you not have adopted a white child?” & yet another “do you think she even knows that she’s black?” I have had to draw a line in the sand & make the decision that other people’s opinions about me cannot affect me any more. “God, give me a thick skin and an open, tender heart” has been my prayer.

One of the things that has really set me free on this is the subject of comfort. Jesus comforts his disciples in John 14 by saying “do not let your hearts be troubled..” as he tells them he’ll be leaving them soon. He says “I’m sending you another comforter..” This other comforter was to be Holy Spirit. Comfort is often seen as something a child needs. When we grow up, we’re expected to “get on with it” & “be mature”. However, only in the place of weakness & humility can we acknowledge our need of comfort, love, and help. Then God can minister to our hearts. It’s His ministry to our hearts that enables growth & restores us. Receiving His comforting love comes when we acknowledge our need of Him.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God…” Paul could have said “the God of all miracles”… but instead chose to say “the God of all comfort.” Paul had been a self-righteous murderer & here we have God revealing Himself to him as the comforter & compassionate Father. God’s comfort enables Paul to keep going, through ship-wreck, imprisonment, beatings, & stoning. When we are comforted by God we truly become strong, (even though it looks like weakness.) When we are weak and reach out to be comforted by our Father’s love, then His strength becomes our life.

Paul is saying here that we get to comfort others with the comfort that we ourselves receive from God. Jesus received comfort from His father in the garden of Gethsemane when He said “Father, take this cup of suffering from me”.. The Father sent Him an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus. He was then able to pour out compassion upon those who put him on the cross…offering them the comfort of having been forgiven. When He comforts and loves us, He works through our own hearts, that we might minister healing to others.

If you, like me, need to know the comfort of God when it comes to parenting & indeed your very life.. then pray this with me:

2014-11-30 15.38.47Father, I need to know your solace & your ease from pain, discomfort & loneliness when it comes to my parenting of my children. I need to know your comfort. I want to open my heart to you now to know your love of me as your child, easing all insecurity and discomfort in my heart. Thankyou that I can bring my brokenness and need to you. As you love me in this moment, thankyou that you see who I really am & you love the person that you see. Let me know your embrace Father. Break through the toughness of “keeping it together” with your love. Thankyou that you know my need and that you know me. Thankyou that nothing can separate me or my family from your love, and that you don’t condemn me, but welcome me into your arms. Father, thankyou that I don’t need to be strong, but that I can be weak in your presence and know your endless strength. Thankyou that in every circumstance I can reach out and find your great love for me. Who the Son sets free is free indeed, so help me to be free to walk as the child of God and parent that I am, free from the expectations of others, with an open & tender heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.

🙂 feel better? 😉 x






A Brief Update Part 2…

We just found out half of our last post got accidentally left out. So here’s the rest..! Thank you to all of you who are praying and keeping up with this blog. Your prayers and interest make a huge difference in what we’re doing here & we love you!


Please pray:

  • For a miracle! That Mamosa would get to travel back to NI for the wedding.
  • For continued grace and favour as we continue to pursue the adoption of Mamosa.
  • That God would lead & guide us as we bring more structure & management into the every day running of Mihlali safe haven.
  • That God would give us wisdom with how to serve & work with the social workers for each child.
  • For breakthrough in our 8 month old’s long term placement.


We are thanking God:

  • For His huge faithfulness shown to us.
  • For having had precious quality time with “Granny Liz” & Sara in the last 2 months.
  • For our partner churches.
  • For His provision of everything we need.
  • For the Department of Social Development in PE.
  • For other havens in this city serving vulnerable children.
  • For old friendships rekindled & new friendships developing.
  • That one of our children has been able to receive long awaited surgery today, that will greatly increase his quality of life!!!
  • That a family who love Jesus have come forward, desiring to foster our 2 sibling boys longterm!!!
  • For our 15 month old, that the family desiring to foster him have had their home assessment & now only need a court date to finalize everything before he can be placed with them!
  • That we get to join in with what God is already doing in this city, placing vulnerable children in loving families.


A brief update…

Cathcart Prayer and News Letter

Dear Friend,

We hope and pray that this letter finds you well! Time has really flown! it feels like only yesterday we were welcoming our first child to Mihlali Children’s Haven, but in reality it has actually been 6 months.  As I write this, I’m realising it has been way too long since we last sent out a prayer and newsletter. I apologise for our lack of communication.

A brief update…


We have been on a very sharp learning curve with Mihlali. After welcoming our first child into the haven it only took 21 days to fill all the available spaces. Filling up so quickly with children made us realise the need that is all around us in the Eastern Cape. We had social workers sending children from over an hours drive away, as there was nowhere closer to take the children. We also learned that we were not quite ready to have so many children at Mihlali. We are currently allocating more time to the training of our new staff, along with registering Penuel Children’s Foundation SA as a PBO (Public Benefit Organisation). Our focus is to have this home running as effectively as possible.

We have had some problems with 2 staff members moving on for various reasons. However we have just welcomed two new staff, a live in caregiver (Ruth) and a day caregiver (Nomvuzo). This provides us with the capability of catching up with administration, and getting at least one day off each week. We are very excited to welcome Ruth and Nomvuzo to the Mihlali team. They are both gifts from God!

The Cathcarts:

We have had the huge pleasure of having had a month with Sara Browning, volunteering with us, & then also “Granny Liz” spending 3 weeks in our home. We have loved having friends and family to stay, especially as it gave an opportunity for our loved ones to bond with Mamosa. It has been hard bringing her into our family as our daughter & still not having had opportunities to introduce Mamosa to friends and family from NI/Ireland yet.

Kate’s sister Debbie is getting married in November. We have booked flights for Kate and the boys to attend the wedding in Northern Ireland. We have also applied to the courts for permission to bring Mamosa with us. If we are given permission to bring Mamosa we will all then be attending. Unfortunately if we are not granted permission to bring Mamosa, Richie will have to stay in PE to look after her.

It has been a huge pleasure falling more and more in love with Mamosa, and watching a firm bond being established between Kate & I as her parents & Joseph, Reuben and Mamosa. We have been amazed watching how quickly she has bonded with our boys and how much they love her. On several occasions we have caught Joseph and Reuben arguing “no… she is my sister!” They have always ended this argument by agreeing to share her as “our sister” 🙂

With much love, fondness & thankfulness for each one of you,

Richie, Kate, Joseph, Reuben & Mamosa. xxxxx


This blog is a way of me processing our life. I haven’t updated it in a long time, because each day seems to encompass more change than I feel capable of expressing! Things change dramatically here in the space of a day. From receiving our daughter (finally!) into our care, to a child requiring hospital treatment, to a loved one being admitted to hospital back home in Northern Ireland, to a plan for a child’s future “forever home” suddenly changing. Nothing stays the same for long. It has led me to conclude that in order to do more than just “survive” living this kind of life, I need to fully embrace weakness.

There have been moments when I have been painfully aware of my inability to manage children living with special needs, one of whom often purges bodily fluids over me during the night, when all I need is sleep. I have experienced tears of resentment when our new daughter or boys, have not had as much time with me, as some of the kids we’ve welcomed into our home. In these moments, I have understood that first, I need to rest in God’s love for me. Secondly, that I need other people to help (having our dear friend Sara with us has been amazing in this regard!). Thirdly, that God has compassion on me whenever I have been pushed to the absolute limits of all that I am. He understands that we are made of dust, and that we are weak. He does not accuse. Instead He whispers “I still love you. I am still with you. You have still been made to love this child in front of you right now.. even when you are too tired to feel a thing. Trust that I will love him through you. Trust me”.

For some reason things always seem worse at night. In those moments when I have cried out “where are you God?” whilst covered in said bodily fluids, He has gently answered “I’m sitting right beside you. I’m covered in it too. You’re doing this with me, not for me. This child belongs to me.”

I have always been encouraged by how David poured out his complaints before God in the Psalms, and I have been doing a lot of that in this season. As David does this, God reminds him again of truth. In my times with God, I have demanded to know if He agrees with me or not, regarding whatever I happen to think is “wrong”. He has on each occasion, not answered my question. Being right doesn’t seem to matter to Him.  Instead He responds with “if you let me, I can teach you how to love people like I do. Do you want me to teach you?” As I have yielded an often begrudging “yes”, He once again dismantles that desire in me to be “strong”. He made Himself vulnerable & weak by dying on a cross for me & so the love of God makes me vulnerable & weak. This same love makes us dependent on a God who has now made His home within our hearts. He loves us. Even when I am disgusted with the resentment in my own heart. His love is bigger than my heart.

Romans 8:26-27 says:

“in the same way, the Spirit also helps our weaknesses, for we don’t know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which can’t be uttered. He who searches the heart knows what is on the Spirit’s mind, because he makes intercession for the saints, according to God.

The Spirit of God helps us in our weakness. Whilst I would often rather be dignified or strong, weakness is becoming a foundation in my life. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says that God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the strong. When we are weak, we are painfully aware of our inability to manage life alone. When we are weak, we need to live life completely dependent on God for strength. Paul received a revelation of weakness in 2 Corinthians 12 when he asked God to remove the thorn that was in his flesh. In response to his prayer, Jesus appeared to him and said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). When Paul discovered that real power is perfected in our weakness, he made this declaration in the last part of the same verse… Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. When we are weak, then we’re strong.

It is Holy Spirit who intercedes on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray. It is the Spirit of Jesus within us, that tells us we are children of God and causes us to cry out “Abba Father!”. It is the Spirit of our Father who speaks through us when we need to bring an explanation of how we’re living, to those around us.

I am learning in this season that the more I am aware of my absolute weakness, the more I will get to see His strength and grace. Isaiah 40 says:
“He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might.The following song has been really helpful in this last season. His love, for every one of us on the face of the planet, is utterly inexhaustible & infinite. Every one of us needs to become weak like a child. The children we love and do life with every day (& night) have certainly taught us that much.

Penuel News Letter

If you would like to be emailed any future News Letters from Penuel Children’s Foundation please sign up here.

Penuel Children’s Foundation is a UK based charity dedicated to giving a fresh start to vulnerable children. Our first project is in Port Elizabeth, South Africa,  a Safe Haven providing 24/7 care for vulnerable children.

Penuel Children's Foundation Photo Banner

20 Jun 2014

Dear Friends,

We hope that this newsletter finds you well. We apologise that it has been so long since our last letter to you. The last few months have been very busy, but also joy-filled!!!

In March we opened the doors to our first haven in Port Elizabeth. Preparations to open Mihlali (meaning “joy” in IsiXhosa) took longer than we had hoped for initially. Mihlali is currently running at full capacity, providing 24/7 care for 6 children. We could not continue to do this valuable work without the help of all our supporters. We are so very grateful to each of you who have given both one-off gifts and monthly donations to see Penuel become a reality. Thankyou!

Mihlali Children’s Haven update:

Since our last newsletter we have moved on from carrying out renovations, to welcoming children. It has been a pure joy to welcome & provide emergencry care for our first group of 6 children into Mihlali. Within 21 days of receiving our very first child, Mihlali became full. To run a safe haven like this in South Africa, it is required that we become registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO). This is the equivalent to receiving charity status in the UK. Over the last few months we have been working on our application to become a PBO. We hope that in the next month we will be able to make an application in order that Penuel Children’s Foundation SA will be a fully registered PBO. This will help us to run Mihlali and any future havens, more effectively. Meanwhile, we are exceptionally grateful to Masiphane African Havens (Joburg) for including us under their PBO status, until our own is up and running.

The Children:


Our first child Amahle, came to us at 15 months old. We have been humbled and amazed, watching God transform this child’s life. Shortly after arrival we took Amahle for an HIV test as is routine in our home. Amahle was displaying symptoms that were in keeping with a positive diagnosis & our GP told us a positive result was likely. The diagnostic test (PCR) came back positive & our child was commenced on prophylactic medication, whilst awaiting a viral load blood test result, which would indicate which ARV drugs to commence. We were shocked when the viral load blood test came back: “undetectable”. We continued to pray and two weeks later, took Amahle to have a repeat PCR (diagnostic test) carried out. By now all Amahle’s symptoms had cleared up. The PCR blood test came back reading HIV negative. God’s love for this child is beyond description. Amahle will be leaving our care in 5 days time to go to her forever home. Amahle has built our faith and taught us that all HIV must bow to the feet of Jesus. Out of all the children in our home, if anyone “should” have been HIV positive, it was this child. God has re–written Amahle’s story.

Sive and Sinovuyo:

Next we received two siblings, a 4 and a 3 year old. It continues to be a pleasure watching God’s love bring freedom to Sive and Sinovuyo. Sive arrived covered in scars from a local witch doctor (“sangoma”). He was an understandably angry child who hit and kicked not only us, but anyone he could get close to. Sinovuyo was a reserved child, who would not leave Sive’s side. We were amazed as we witnessed Sive’s scars heal in a number of days. After meeting with Jesus, we led this child in forgiving those in his life who had caused Sive pain. Peace filled Sive from that day on & any seizures that were afflicting this child’s life have not recurred in the past 3 months these children have been living with us. Both children came to us frightened and angry, but God has removed the fear and anger, replacing it with perfect love. We now look after two wonderfully joy filled children who love Jesus & love to worship!


Our special Ntombe has taught us a lot about joy. When we first met this wonderful 3 year old, Ntombe weighed 6kg. There are many health challenges with this child. We were told that Ntombe would never smile nor laugh. We have witnessed God releasing joy into Ntombe’s life, and into others through Ntombe. This child now smiles and laughs every day with us. Ntombe’s favourite thing to do is dance in our arms. We have seen a lot of small victories in Ntombe’s health, and we are very grateful to God for bringing this child to us & for miraculously intervening in this precious life.


Our 5th child arrived to us with no known name or date of birth. Buhle’s Social Worker chose his name & we immediately loved both the name & Buhle! Buhle was estimated to be around 3 months old. One of our volunteers quickly fell in love with this child, and is now in the process of becoming Buhle’s permanent foster carer, with the long term view to adopt this beautiful child. Thankyou God!


Etienne came to us directly from hospital. We got to celebrate Etienne’s first birthday shortly after arrival with us. It has been an amazing journey as we saw this wonderful child’s birth father visit & then give his life to Jesus as a direct result of spending time with Etienne, in our home. We are amazed at what God has done and is continuing to do in Etienne’s life. God’s presence at work in Etienne’s life, is what drew this father to Jesus.

Prayer Requests:

Praise God that Mihlali is now open!

Praise God for local churches and churches back home, uniting together to see these children reached.

Praise God for the miracles we have witnessed with each child in Mihlali

Praise God for the relationship and support we have received from Datalex

Praise God for the blankets, hot water bottles and vitamin supplements we have received from Liguori Agencies here in PE.

That God would increase the monthly provision to Penuel, so we can see more children impacted.

That forever families would be found for Sive and Sinovuyo, and Ntombe.

Praise God for every one of our wonderful supporters, both near and far.
Praise God for the community and volunteers He is bringing to join us in loving these children & providing the best level of care for His kids.

That God would give us divine wisdom on how to develop Penuel and Mihlali.