Bongani’s story of ending at Hearts of Hope has to start with his beginning. As he was only the second baby for us to receive when we started the children’s home, I remember the phone call vividly.

‘We have a hospice case – given up at hospital for adoption, very small will you take him?’. A ‘hospice case’ is a child with limited prospects of survival and in a dire state. Although we are not a ‘hospice’ home, hearing his circumstances, we couldn’t say no.

The tiniest little baby arrived, four days old and weighing 1.8 kilograms – in South African terms he looked like biltong (beef jerky) and was smaller than the length of my forearm. A wizened old face, so tiny and so weak. But he had an indescribable depth to his eyes that has endured over time. An old soul of wisdom and fortitude.

And so the fight began, there was no way we were going to let this precious child go. Within 2 weeks he became very sick and had to be fed with a syringe, 2.5ml at a time. The medical staff diagnosed him as ‘failure to thrive’, but failure was not an option for us, or for him. We knew that as much as we were prepared to fight, this little boy was fighting too. We approached a local Breast Milk Bank and asked for a donation of breast milk, being very expensive, they could only give us three days’ supply. Slowly with much prayer and love he began to turn the corner. Eight months later he developed chronic eczema – no treatments worked. His skin was so bad that it peeled off in layers leaving pure raw flesh underneath. Eventually we came across natural products and we smothered him in the cream and bandaged him like a mummy for three days, changing the dressings three times a day. It was so hot and so uncomfortable but although he cried, he fought. A vegan diet with no sugar for the next 18 months helped him fight his skin condition and grow stronger. Although he was diagnosed with many medical conditions he became our walking, talking miracle. Everyone was astounded that with everything he had been through, he was so bright, intelligent, talkative and active.

We never thought adoption would be possible for him. It is something we pray for for each of the kids that come to us; that they will have a forever family. As Bongani got older, the likelihood of his adoption decreased. We purchased a new home for our ‘permanent’ kids and Bongani was one of them. But of course God had other plans as at the same time a new family was being prepared for him.

Another phone call, another memory “we have a possible family – send the updated reports and photos, as soon as you can”. My God loves us!

Many emails and reports later, finally confirmation. Cody and Breanna sent the family book of photos – we use this to prepare the children and show them what their new family will be like. We called Bongani to a private room, sat him down, shaking with nerves, fear, anxiety, joy – our baby boy was going home!

“Bongani, we have something special to tell you. You know that we love you and that you are our special boy but do you remember how Busi (one of our other adopted angels) went home to a new mom and dad?”
“uh..huh, she went to America,” he says.
“Well, you are getting a new mom and dad too and a whole new family.”
“Just for me?”
“Yes, they are coming to fetch you in a few days’ time.”
“A real mom and dad?”
“Wow, I never had one of those!” Of course at which point we are crying and he can’t understand why!
“They sent you a special book – would you like to look at it? It’s got photos of your new family.”
Bongani read the book – twice and then asked if he can go and show all the mama’s (our caregivers) and all the children. He ran through to the house.
“Look, look they are coming to fetch me!”
He learnt that book off by heart. He knew all the names for each photo, even the dogs! We counted down the ‘sleeps’ until the big day…

When Bongani met his new mom and dad for the first time he eagerly said “come and see my book!”

Always wise, his memorable words to me the day before he left: “You do know I am never coming back?” Such wonderful news, he had already bonded with his new family, he was ready. Never coming back physically but in our hearts forever. A child that enabled us to believe anything is possible.

As we write this, Bongani turns seven years old in two days time. A precious walking miracle so loved and adored by his special new family who have changed his life forever – thank you Nelson family!