Sometimes you are so homesick you can taste it.

And today it tastes like birthday cake.

My little brother turns 8 today. And I am not there. But worse than that, my oldest son is not there.

Jackson and Karabo; Karabo and Jackson.

They have been friends since Jackson was playing soccer on my inside, long before he and Karabo would kick a ball around on the outside.

Pete and I had come home after ten years away from South Africa and we brought our first and as yet unborn baby with us. Together we met Karabo. He had just turned three and celebrated his birthday as well as his first year with my parents. Every nook and cranny of every heart in my parents’ household was covered in Karabo’s prints.

Karabo is a Setswana name meaning “an Answer.”

For our family, Karabo was the answer to many questions.

For example, what can God do with the little we offer?

My parents had been moved by a particular verse in the book of James:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27

So, they asked a local social worker that they knew if she would introduce them to families that needed support. Families of orphans. Families known eloquently as “child-headed households.” She set up several home visits with several families. My parents planned to deliver care packages, food, clothes. They did not plan to begin an adoption journey.

But then they met the first family.

You know how the story goes. Five thousand hungry people, no food or markets in sight. One little boy, five loaves and two fish. And the rest is history.

Except that it isn’t.

Because God kept multiplying and multiplying and multiplying what my parents had set out to do. He broke their expectations and offered them back new ones, greater ones, more satisfying ones. He broke apart their plan and offered back his own and it filled up spaces in our home we didn’t know were there until our family was eventually multiplied by one little boy.

And what that little boy gives back to us cannot be measured by human hands.

Especially since he’s not so little anymore. And I bet he’s a lot bigger than the last time Jackson saw him. The last time they went swimming. The last time they gave each other piggy back rides. The last time they made like rockstars and played their guts out on the guitar that Jackson still jams with daily.

The last time that Karabo raced through the departure gates for one last, desperate good-bye.

When you ask Jackson what South Africa means to him,
the answer is always Karabo.

Happy Birthday big boy.

Ons mis jou net so hard, so diep, so lank, so wyd soos ons jou lief het.

(We miss you just as strong, deep, tall, and wide as we love you).