Saturday, July 3, 2010


Yesterday was a very emotional day. It was our goodbye day. All week, we’ve been dropping by Ithemba Lethu (Zulu for “I have a destiny”), the children’s home where Duzi lived for 3 years, immersing ourselves in his world and asking lots of questions about his life, needs and routines. We played in the garden, followed Granny Liz (Duzi’s amazing foster mom), around and spent time loving on all the other kids. At one point in the week, Caleb emphatically reported that the next child we were going to adopt was a 2 yr old little girl named Stella. He spent all his time at Ithemba Lethu taking care of her – he even helped give her a bath. I didn’t have an answer for him about whether or not we could adopt her. But, I didn’t exactly say no.

Ithemba Lethu is a joy-filled place. The children there are loved beyond comprehension. The staff members are dedicated to providing the best possible environment for orphaned children and they pray for the kids like crazy. Duzi was well loved and nurtured there. My son was prayed for every day. The staff believed in him, took him to swimming lessons, gymnastics lessons, and preschool, and poured life into him through every interaction. He was the big man on campus.

So, you can imagine why saying goodbye to Ithemba Lethu was incredibly difficult. There was happiness and celebration in the goodbye, as it meant that Duzi now had a family. There was also a tremendous amount of grief and loss in the goodbye. As painful and hard as grief can be, it is also a necessary, healthy part of any transition and we didn’t want to skip over it.

We decided to take Granny Liz, and 4 yr. old Thandeka, Duzi’s close friend and roommate, to lunch before the official goodbye. Before the lunch, Duzi and I went shopping for presents. He picked out some fancy lotion for Liz and a Princess Carriage Set for Thandeka. He gave the ladies their gifts with a proud, proud smile.

We returned from lunch to say our official goodbyes at Ithemba Lethu. Liz sat down with Duzi and gave him a gift of her own – a book about Durban that included photos of all the places she had taken him during his three years in her care. As we lingered in the garden, the Ithemba Lethu staff trickled out, one by one, to form a semi-circle around the garden gate. The Children’s Transition Home is just one arm of IL’s ministry. They also work in the local townships with primary students, educating kids about HIV/AIDS and about their incredible importance to God. All the youth workers who staff this program, and who have been quite influential in Duzi’s life, were there.

We walked out of the gate and the youth workers broke into powerful, joyful song and dance. They were singing in Zulu but my heart understood what they were saying. They were praising God for his provision and generosity and speaking blessing over Duzi. Duzi was absolutely thrilled, in his shy, quiet way, that so much attention was being lavished on him. With some gentle prodding from me, he made his way through the crowd, hugging each adult and each child, while the singing continued. All on his own, he kissed one of the babies tenderly, and I just wept.

Mike and I, and half the staff, were a soggy mess of tears. It was beautiful, painful, and holy all at once.

We eventually made our way to the car and drove away. We looked behind us, and 5 of the youth workers were following, huge grins on their faces, sprinting down the street after us - singing. Duzi exclaimed with glee, “They are chasing us!” And I replied, “You’re right! That’s how much you are loved.”

Mike and I cried the entire way back to our hotel. And then some more tonight.

(Again, having trouble uploading photos - check out the facebook profile for pics! - Jodie Gordon Howerton)


  1. wow...what a powerful day! And I like that you couldn't say no to Caleb:)!

  2. I am also in tears. Powerful is the would I would also use. What a loved little boy to have such love in 2 countries.


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