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With Arms Wide Open

Angela Swinney
Posted December 15, 2020

Angela Swinney of Hornby Corps is passionate about social justice. She is a foster carer, and loves her community through service, prayer and crochet.

I grew up in a Christian family and chose to follow God when I was invited to a dinner to hear evangelist Ray Comfort speak. The year before, I had been healed of asthma, but hadn’t really done anything with my Christian walk. I started getting asthma again that night. I knew then that I had to either commit, or have asthma for the rest of my life.

I foster children. When I moved to Christchurch, my nieces needed care and protection through Child, Youth and Family (now Oranga Tamariki). I took up the challenge and fostered the two of them. Then, 18 years ago, I got offered a baby boy for a night. He has been with me on and off since he was 14 months old.

Hornby Corps is a great fit for me, because The Salvation Army is so into social policy. My jobs have all been focused on people or children, and social equity and justice is very much my passion. When I first started going, sometimes there would only be six of us there. Now, we have 30, 40 or more. It was also the right fit for my foster boy at the time. He only stayed at church till he was old enough to be left at home alone, but The Salvation Army still supports him.

The verse that has been on my heart for a long time is 1 Samuel 1:27: ‘For this child I prayed’ (KJV). Even though my boy is far from knowing the Lord, I know that God has heard my prayers. Sometimes it gets a wee bit discouraging, but the focus is not today or tomorrow. Only the Lord can change his heart. I’ve had to become very patient, and throughout my journey I’ve learned about empathy and acceptance.

I was asked to step up to leadership at the corps and help with the kids on a Sunday. Just before Covid-19, I went to crochet lessons at Spotlight and also learnt how to crochet from YouTube. I made all 26 children a poncho or beanie and prayed for each of them by name. It was really fun. Then I started making shawls, because my cousin’s having a baby. Now, everyone seems to want a shawl and I’m praying for the babies! I also help at the Foodbank two days a week, which I absolutely adore. Because my boy is of an age where he’s going to be independent next year, I’m excited to see where God is going to lead me after this. I don’t know whether he’s going to give me more children, or place me in a job.

I’m the local chairperson of Otautahi Foster Care Association. We host events, like a brunch for caregivers and Christmas parties for the children. Foster parents usually have quite a few children and there’s so many end-of-year breakups, so we usually host the parties in midwinter. We make it quite festive, and I buy sparklers so they can write their names in the air. We’ve even had snow once—it was beautiful.

I think I befriend the ones who need befriending. Last Christmas, I had all these people who had nowhere to go over for Christmas dinner—street workers, the LGBTQIA+ community—and it was really cool. My boy has given me a huge opportunity to witness, talk to, love, support and be Jesus to others. They’re all his children.