Stephenson and Joseph were born as cousins.
But they were raised as brothers.
Both of them innocent victims of AIDS. Both of them born to mothers who didn't survive to see their sons grow up. Both of them raised by their grandma.
Both boys were born into more adversity and responsibililty than any child should be. But they had eachother. Not only were they brothers, they were best friends.
Stephenson and Joseph were born with so much in common, even their age. But they were born with one huge difference. A huge gap that even brotherhood couldn't fill.
Joseph was born HIV positive. Stephenson was not.
When I met these boys and was first touched by their bond of brotherhood they were thirteen.
Stephenson had walked Joseph several miles to find Tecla. This was a common practice for them. Some days it was to visit, or recieve food, but more often than not, and on that day, it was because Joseph was sick.
During the months I spent getting to know these boys, I experienced the constant rollercoaster that they called life.
Joseph never felt well, but he would go a couple weeks feeling okay. Then he would get sick again. A cold, TB, or dehydration would crash in on his weakened immune system, and it would knock him out for weeks. Through it all Stephenson was by his side. He cared for him with complete love and respect. He never left his brother.
A friend loves at all times.
Every time they walked through the gate at the lodge I held my breath. Many days it meant a trip to the hospital, but some days, my very favorite days, it meant time. Time together. Time to get to know these children. Time to soak up their beauty and wisdom and grace.
One of Stephenson's favorite things to do when they'd visit was jump rope. I loved watching him jump rope, and so did Joseph. The laughter and joy of being a child, and having a rare moment to play like a child, was something Joseph and I both watched in admiration. His joy flowed out to us as we watched.
Shortly after I left Zimbabwe, Joseph and Stephenson's grandma passed away.
Stephenson then became Joseph's sole caregiver. Quite a responsibility for a 14 year old boy.
Not only did Stephenson continue to care for Joseph, he did it with love and grace, and with a smile on his face.
A brother is born for adversity.
Stephenson devoted his life to caring for his brother.
Then, in October of 2008, Joe passed away.
I was devastated. I cannot even begin to imagine what Stephenson felt.
But in my sadness God gave me a vision. A vision of Joseph jumping rope with that same laughter and joy that I had seen wash over Stephenson's face. I realized that Joseph, for probably the first time ever, felt well. Joseph had suffered his entire life. But now he has no sickness or suffering or pain.
He is well.
The story of Joseph and Stephenson came to an end. But the story of Stephenson continues on.
The moment Joseph died, the family members who had allowed them to sleep on the floor out of sympathy for Joe, kicked Stephenson out onto the streets.
In a day he lost his brother, his best friend, and his home.
He was forced out on the streets, and from there we don't know.
We don't know where he lives. Where he sleeps. What he eats. Or what he does to survive.
Those things scare me. So, from here I pray. I pray for his safety and his innocence, and for that spirit of humility and grace. I pray he may find provision and love, wherever he may be.
Part of me holds onto a hope, that maybe we will find him. Maybe in December God will do a miracle, and I'll be able to hug him and love on him.
Stephenson is just one face, one child, one story of thousands of street children. But I ask that if his story, if this one life has touched your heart, that you would pray for him too.