International Alliance for Mercy

Celebrating Boniface's Birthday

Dear Reader,

After a couple days that were very heavy I thought it would be good to follow up with a lighter post.  Today Boniface and I celebrated his 15th birthday. (In an earlier post I said that I thought he was 16 - but apparently I was wrong.  He was born on this day 15 years ago).  This was the first time he said he had celebrated a birthday since he was 10.  So, I was glad that the timing worked out that he came in just as he was turning 15.  

Our afternoon together was very fun and relaxed.  We went to Artcaffe for lunch.  Boniface said he liked chicken and pizza - so we both ended up ordering chicken pizza.  Afterward he ordered some Black Forest cake (his favorite).  Then we went to Spider Man.  This was Boniface's first time in a movie theater.  He loved it!

Finally - when the other boys came home from school we had a cake waiting so we could celebrate together.  Tonight the plan is to watch another fun movie as a family.

Boniface is healing - and I think he is really enjoying being here.  We all love having him!

Seth Johnson

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Dear Reader,

Thank you for your care at this time.  Many of you reached out to me over the last 24 hours to let me know you were praying.  A few of you offered counsel.  A couple of you even gave generously - and I suspect sacrificially.  Again, thank you for your outpouring of love for Boniface, for my family, and for me at this time.

This morning I digested the latest round of information.

Yesterday while Noah was out with Boniface I spent some time praying about what to do.  While I was praying Isaiah 54 came strongly into my mind.  I could not remember it exactly, so I looked up the passage.  It reads, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left (…).” (Isaiah 54:2-3, NIV).

Whether this was from the Lord I am not yet certain.  But, I sensed that it was.  My feeling and conviction (though I will not yet say I am fully persuaded) is that God is about to grow this ministry.  Whether He does or not - Boniface is in himself a tremendous blessing.  “Our cup runneth over” with him as an individual, whether or not he is the first fruits of more to come.  God has given him to us as true riches.  We may need a bigger vessel to accommodate him.  We may have to build bigger barns to contain him.  

Yesterday I thought about the concept of a “tent.”  I am so fond of earthly things.  I’ve grown to really like our apartment and our location - our building and our complex.  It feels like “home.”  I left my home in Roanoke, VA in 2014 - but now, years later, I have a physical space that feels like home in Nairobi.  But I felt like what was being communicated to me yesterday was, “Seth, once again you are clinging too much to a building.  Let it go.  Tents are by nature transient.  They can be moved to adapt to the new needs.  Let go of the building, it isn’t important.  What is important is that you have the capacity to accept the new blessings - the human blessings - that you are being given.”

When Noah came back with Boniface he brought with him news that I am still trying to absorb and to which I am still forming the right response.  Noah and Boniface located the dad.  He was not at home, but could be found in the place where he is apt to drink.  He explained that he had not chased Boniface.  But - when Boniface’s mom died while he was still very young (7-years-old) Boniface began to act out.  He became less manageable.  Boniface chose to leave on his own.

According to Boniface the father was not physically abusive.  However, after the mother died he began to verbally abuse Boniface regarding his mother.  The mother’s death, and the abuse regarding his mother, drove Boniface from the home.  Boniface says that when his dad was sober they could get along.  But when the dad was drinking, getting along was impossible (and it sounds like this was a very frequent scenario).

The older sister (who is now an adult) was called.  She corroborated much of the story.  She also made it plain to Noah that the father was not to be involved if we should need help with Boniface while we are caring for him.  She said that if there was any trouble to call her directly - as the father would be apt to make a scene.  She explained that it was highly important the father not be told the exact location of Boniface’s whereabouts because when he was drinking heavily he might stalk Boniface and make a public spectacle.  She seemed very concerned about this (and I assume there is a considerable backstory here).  All of this said - the father and the adult sister were willing to sign the papers allowing us temporary custody of Boniface.

It appears that the sister really does care about him.  However, Noah ascertained that helping him had been a source of contention and division in her marriage.  The husband did not have the same attitude as the sister and appears to have limited the amount of help the sister’s family can offer Boniface.

The major news from yesterday though regards Boniface’s medical situation.  As Noah asked the sister whether Boniface has any health concerns we should know about, Boniface shot her a look of concern - as though to say, “Please don’t tell!”  She asked Noah to speak with her in private.  There she told him that Boniface has been HIV positive from infancy.  His mother was positive when she gave birth to him, and she gave the disease to Boniface.  Moreover, he has not always been faithful in taking his medications.  Sometimes the sister was able to make him take the drugs, and other times he would not and would go missing.  

Yesterday Boniface showed great courage.  I told him that we loved him regardless of the HIV - that it did not change anything regarding how much we care for him.  But, as Noah, Boniface and I sat talking I explained that whether I helped him in my own home, or in some other place, those with whom he was living would need to know.  I said that we would need to take proper precautions, but that it didn’t have any impact on how much he was loved.  He gave me the permission to tell the other boys.  He was worried.  He asked, “Do you think it will cause an enmity?”  He was clearly ashamed, and feared the other boys would hate him if they knew.  But, Noah and I both encouraged him that it was not his fault that he was sick, that he must accept the illness and also know that we accepted him regardless of it.

Last night I told the boys around the dinner table.  Boniface asked that I lead the conversation, though he wanted to be present.  The boys handled it very maturely.  Rather than judging or excluding him, multiple boys wanted him to know that they cared about him and that the new information didn’t change their view of him.  Dishon, Moses, Julius, and Juma all prayed for him.  We discussed ways to make the house a safe place for everyone.

Frankly, this means that we might be moving.  Boniface was embarrassed and went to bed much earlier than the rest of us.  I took the opportunity and talked with the older sons (Julius, Vincent, Juma, Moses, and Dishon).  Only John and Branton were excluded from the conversation.  We all affirmed that we felt like Boniface was supposed to be with us.  We talked candidly about how to make him feel loved and yet at the same time make sure that the house was safe.  Listening to my boys discuss and problem solve was incredibly heartening.  My sons are wonderful - beautiful people - who have a large heart for the hurting.  I am learning so much about Jesus through them, and I am incredibly blessed by them.  They are willing to sacrifice their own comfort for Boniface.  My older sons agreed to sharing their rooms with up to two or three other boys in order to give Boniface his own private area in the Servant’s Quarters.  They agreed that Boniface should have his own bedroom and bathroom, and that we should start implementing new measures immediately in regard to common items.  (The picture associated with this post shows Boniface in his new room.  Today the boys shifted rooms so that he could have his own space).  This is our short-term solution, but long-term it means we will likely be looking for a place with at least five bedrooms that allows us to safely include Boniface while at the same time giving all of us enough space to be comfortable.  I called my realtor today and asked him to begin looking for a new place for us.  Pray that if it is God's will He will give us something that is ideal for our particular situation.

I wish to say that moving is not a foregone conclusion.  Frankly, I feel like we are supposed to do whatever is best for Boniface.  I believe that God brought him to us intentionally - to see what we would do with him.  I am honored by this.  Christ Himself comes to us in the person of Boniface - seeking shelter, seeking clothing, seeking food, seeking medical care, seeking a home, and seeing if we will receive Him as our own in His weakness, and in his sickness, and in His time of need.  He who gave Himself for us - now, in the person of Boniface - offers us the unfathomable blessing of giving ourselves for Him.  Who am I, and what is my family, that God would give us the honor of visiting us in weakness?  While I am not yet certain exactly what we will do, right now I am convicted that to receive Boniface (whatever that will end up meaning) is to receive Christ; to turn him away is to turn away Christ.

In all of this I am also doing my homework in order that love may be mingled with wisdom.  I have initiated contact with a local children’s home that specializes in working with HIV patients.  I have made contact with my friend who is over the youth ministry at Nairobi Chapel (one of the major churches in the area) who has graciously volunteered to do some research for me.  My friend Sarah, who goes to church with me in Nairobi, is going to contact a friend who works specifically with children with HIV so that she can advise us regarding the best way forward.  It is my plan to speak with physicians, even specialists, to ensure we do everything we can to care for Boniface while at the same time caring for the needs of the whole family.  

That said - I feel like this may be a “new beginning” of sorts.  I am reminded that when God originally called me to be a father to boys here in Nairobi I looked into existing programs to see whether any of them would be more suitable than me.  My research ended up leading me to the conclusion that God was in fact calling me to the work myself.  I do not know that this will be the same journey.  But I do sense that perhaps God has brought Boniface to me and to my family - and that He will end up using us in a special way.

This morning Boniface sat on the couch reading Matthew.  I asked him to read as much as he could.  He read the first nine chapters!  We discussed it for a while on the balcony.  I am glad for the opportunity to do discipleship with Boniface in the time that we have.  May God bless the time we have with Boniface, whether it be a very long time, or a very short one.

Please pray.  A few of you were a part of my prayer team when I believed God was calling me to be a father in the first instance.  Now, all of you can be a part of praying that God leads me and my family even in this step of the journey.  It is not yet possible to say what the Lord is doing.  But, I am excited to see where he leads us and what He will accomplish in the life of Boniface and in our own lives too.  Last night I prayed over Boniface that he would know that the Lord had good plans for him - plans to give him hope and a future; plans to prosper him and not to harm him.  Pray that we will be a part of this divine plan in the life of Boniface.


Seth Johnson

P.S. Boniface has given me special permission to share this with you via email and this blog.  His only request was that it not be posted on Facebook.  So please - do not put a link to this posting on FB.  However, sharing this with friends through email is ok.

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