How did a series of extraordinary events introduce British writer JEMIMAH WRIGHT to the love of her life living 9 000km away in Cape Town? She told KATY MACDONALD
Jemimah (45) was born and brought up in the rural English county of Norfolk, a second child amongst four brothers. She studied publishing and history at Oxford Brookes University, then became a journalist and writer. She now lives in Cape Town with her husband Alister, who works in IT

WORKING AS A FREELANCE JOURNALIST and travelling the world writing missionary biographies made my life exciting and purposeful. But as I got into my thirties and found myself still single, my work could not fulfil the deepest desire of my heart. I’d always wanted to get married, but had never met the right man.

I knew I didn’t want to get bitter, but instead to stay joyful and thankful. However, I found it harder and harder to be content in my singleness. I was an adult bridesmaid six times, but never the bride. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong, and I prayed for years asking God to bring me a husband. But it was the prayer that never seemed to be answered.

My dad had had a radical conversion to Christianity when he was 32, and we grew up with an expectation to see God move in our lives. At the age of 18, I got down on my knees and gave God my life, to do with as He pleased. In between my more conventional jobs, I spent a year working with children in Imizamo Yethu township in Cape Town’s Hout Bay.

Cape Town TownshipCape Town Township
Imizamo Yethu township in Cape Town’s Hout Bay, where Jemimah volunteered in her twenties | Photos: Ronelle de Villiers

In my singlehood, I fed myself with faith-building stories of what God had done in other people’s lives to remind myself that He’s as able and faithful as the Bible tells us.

But when I was approaching 40 I felt really sad about still being single. It felt like a ‘too-late’ cut-off point – I believed that somehow I would soon be too old to find a husband! I started saying to God, ‘I tell people you are good, but I don’t actually know if you’re good to me.’

Then, while living in London, I had a dream. In the dream, I was standing in front of an immovable steel door. It was massive, and I was trying everything in my own strength to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. Eventually I gave up, and sat despondently on the ground with my back to it. I woke up, but my feeling of frustration was still so present. ‘Just so you know God, this is how it feels trying to find a husband,’ I told God as I got out of bed. ‘It’s impossible!’

That evening, I went to a friend’s house for a Christian worship night. A girl there said she’d received a picture in her mind’s eye which she believed had come from God. She felt it was for someone in the room. It was of an immovable steel door. ‘You’ve tried everything in your own strength to open it, and it’s impossible. God says it won’t happen by might or by power, but by His spirit. He‘ll do it, you just have to let go and trust Him.’

linen shirt and rainbow card

I was blown away. The girl had described the exact door I had seen in my dream. It felt as if God had finally spoken into my situation. I decided to trust God. For the next year, random people told me they had received words and pictures for me about a door that God was going to open, and it would be quick and easy.

In faith, I bought a very nice blue linen shirt for my husband to thank God in advance. I also saw a card with a picture of a rainbow on it which I felt I should buy in faith to give to my future husband, as rainbows are a sign of God’s promises to us. I didn’t show these to anyone because I’d have been embarrassed – there was still no change to my singlehood!

Above, Jemimah as a student and, below, on holiday in Greece in 2020. Despite the fun and fulfilment, she still had a longing to find a husband and soulmate

Four years later, Covid arrived and I left London to stay with my parents in Norfolk. My dad had developed prostate cancer and, being a people person, was so frustrated with lockdown. I started an Instagram page for him called walking_as_jesus_walked [now renamed jemimah_a_wright], and filmed him sharing short testimonies of how God had worked in his life.

Jemimah’s father said that when he got to heaven, he’d ask God for a husband for his daughter 🙂

In autumn 2020, Dad’s illness progressed and he had to go into a hospice. A week before he died, and although he could hardly speak, he said the first thing he was going to ask Jesus when he got to heaven was to bring my husband! I knew something was going to shift.

Dad went to be with Jesus in November 2020, aged 86. I’d always been afraid of being single when he died because I knew how hard it would be. But when he eventually did go, amazingly, I felt God’s closeness and comfort and felt Him say, ‘A man will always let you down, but I will never let you down’. I knew at that point I didn’t need to get married. I wanted to, but if I didn’t, it would be all right. Being in a close relationship with Jesus really was enough for me, even at this very low point.

Announcing her father’s funeral date, a grieving Jemimah was still able to speak out this message of hope

Nonetheless, in January 2021, I was 42, still at home with Mum, living in my childhood bedroom and life was looking rather bleak. My brothers were all married with children and living a few hours away. Mum and I were snowed in, we had run out of oil to heat our house, the oil truck couldn’t get to us, the landline was broken and it was lockdown so my grieving mum couldn’t see anyone. Apart from having a new puppy, things weren’t looking good.

I felt my life had come to a dead end. One morning I sat reading my bible and praying, asking God for hope. Suddenly I felt Him speak about a husband: ‘He’s coming in spring, and he’s coming from Africa.’ I wrote this in my journal but felt cross because I was scared to hold onto it and be disappointed. After all, this could be spring 2052 that God was talking about!

felt cross

On Monday April 17th  2021 (spring in the UK!), I woke up in the middle of the night, and heard the words, ‘Transition, transition, transition is coming!’ I didn’t know what it meant, but the next morning I wrote it in my journal.

Two days later, Alister got in contact via my dad’s Instagram. He rarely uses Instagram, but had somehow come across my videos and started watching them. He says he wondered whether I was the one God had for him, but didn’t want to pursue something God wasn’t in. He posted a picture of some beautiful white flowers and told himself that if I commented, he’d respond. I did, and so he did!

Alister lives in Cape Town and it turned out we had friends in common from my previous stay in South Africa. After a few days of text, then voice, messages, we started talking on the phone. I was nervous, but as soon as we started talking it was so easy. We talked about everything and anything, and seemed to be so similar in our outlook on life. Soon we were speaking every day for hours at a time. It was the easiest connection, everything felt like an open door.

most peaceful relationship

I was open pretty quickly to the fact that Alister might be the one, but I knew I wouldn’t know until we had met. So, after two months, I suggested coming out to SA. I didn’t want to be talking for much longer, only to discover when we met that there was nothing there.

SA was on the red list when I flew out in June 2021. I felt excited and strangely calm! When I came through customs, we just hugged and it was so normal, like seeing my best friend. Having spoken on the phone every day for two months, I felt I knew him well already.

I stayed with my friend Cathy who lived 10 minutes from Alister. He’d come over after work each day, then we’d go for a walk and have dinner. From the very beginning it was all so easy and natural, the most peaceful relationship I’d ever had. Having fun is important to me, and Alister makes me laugh a lot. I trusted him easily, and I saw how loved he was by his family and friends. He is a special man!

Jemimah and Alister. ‘From the very beginning it was all so easy and natural, the most peaceful relationship I’d ever had,’ says Jemimah. ‘I trusted him easily. He makes me laugh a lot. He’s a special man.’

Alister has two adult children from his previous marriage. They were so warm and welcoming to me. They’re both very close to their dad, so I felt so touched by their kindness to me, who was coming into the mix so quickly.

We talked about marriage early on and one Saturday in July 2021, a week before I had to fly home, Alister took me on a hike up a mountain, and at the top asked me to be his wife. I knew it was coming, we’d already had the ring designed, but I knew it wasn’t ready, so I didn’t think he would propose without it. Instead he went with his daughter and got a substitute ring to propose with – so I was totally surprised. When he proposed, I felt so much peace that it was very easy to say yes!

Six months after Alister first contacted me, we married on 23rd October, in a friend’s garden in Constantia. Amazingly, the UK lifted the SA red list for a few months around the wedding, so my mum, brothers, nieces and nephews could come. My brother David walked me down the aisle and another brother, James, did a father-of-the-bride-speech in place of my dad.

Six months after Alister first contacted Jemimah, the couple were married | Photos: Sarah Lamour
Jemimah and Alister with her close family, most of whom were able to come out for the wedding when South Africa was having a reprieve from the UK’s Covid red list. Jemimah’s brothers, David and James, walked her down the aisle and gave a speech in place of their dad

I now work online from home as deputy editor of a UK magazine called Woman Alive, which I feel is amazing provision from God. I’ve also just published Isabella’s Voyage, my first novel, which took 10 years to write! It’s really the story I wanted to read, about hope and circumstances changing when you least expect it, and very loosely inspired by a real woman called Isabella Bird who travelled from England to Hawaii in the 1880s.

Marriage is definitely not the answer to life’s problems, but it’s a good gift which I would encourage anyone to ask God for. What I love most about it is being part of a team, having your best friend in your corner, someone to celebrate your success and commiserate when you’re sad. My granny, who was married for over 60 years, said the most important thing in a husband is kindness, and Alister is very kind.

I love South Africa and found it easy to adapt to, and particularly love hiking and swimming, which I get to do all the time in Cape Town. It’s hard for Mum and me to be in different countries now that she’s alone, but she is so happy that I’ve met Alister, and loves him. I’m so sad I can’t tell Dad the whole story, as he’d have loved it, but I’m guessing he knows already. I think it was God and Dad who match-made me with Alister!

‘I love South Africa, and found it easy to adapt to. I particularly love hiking and swimming, which I get to do all the time in Cape Town,’ says Jemimah | Photo: Ronelle de Villiers

A few months after I met Alister, I remembered my friend Genevieve had told me a dream she’d had three years previously. I was marrying a South African man, it was very fast, but very good and he had an adult daughter. All of that happened, and his adult daughter is wonderful.

Over the past few years, when my life seemed barren, I felt Jesus say again and again, ‘Even when you can’t see it, I’m moving.’ Having written other people’s stories, I know there’s always a page or a chapter when it looks as if God has forgotten us, but He is faithful and we can trust Him. His will is actually the best thing for us! If he doesn’t give us what we ask, He’s probably got something better for us.

On our recent first wedding anniversary, I gave Alister the rainbow card I’d bought in London all those years ago. Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Meeting and marrying Alister has shown me just how true this is. And, guess what, the blue linen shirt I bought him fits him like a glove!

The rainbow card, once a statement of Jemimah’s hope and trust in God, became a first anniversary present for Alister. ‘Marriage is definitely not the answer to life’s problems, but it is a good gift I would encourage anyone to ask God for,’ says Jemimah
JEMIMAH’S MESSAGE TO YOU: IF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES AREN’T GOOD YET, THEY’RE NOT OVER   *and thank you, videographer Ronelle, for this relaxed start 🙂
Jemimah’s book, Isabella’s Voyage, has just been published. If you’d like to buy  it, message her on Instagram, or if you’re in the UK, buy it here
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