Buddy Harston wonders how a 4-year-old orphan wandering the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa could find himself spending Christmas in America seven years later with a new family. He has only one answer - God’s providence.
Harston’s wife, Julie, reference librarian at Lipscomb’s Beaman Library, arrived in South Africa Monday. She will spend the next four weeks in Durban getting to know her new son, Aphiwe, who lives in the Lily of the Valley Children’s Village in Mophela, South Africa. She will live at the village and attend to paperwork and court dates to finalize an adoption process that has taken approximately 2 1/2 years.
Harston, 57, admits that it was not in his plans to adopt a child at this stage in his life. Again, Buddy saw God’s hands in the plan.
“I don’t feel like I’m doing it,” Buddy said. “Buddy wouldn’t do it. But I gave it over to God.
“The Buddy in my head would be saying `you can’t do this’. Then I would be talking and saying we were going to do this. I started thinking what is going on. It had to be the Holy Spirit changing us. “
The idea started with Palmer and Taylor, the Harstons’ daughters. Palmer was an Ingram Scholar as an undergraduate at Vanderbilt. She was required during the summers to spend seven-to-eight weeks on a service project. Palmer chose to spend two summers in South Africa working at a Christian orphanage in Durban which primarily accepted babies afflicted with HIV. Taylor, 23, accompanied her older sister on the second trip.
“They fell in love with the children in South Africa,” Buddy said. “Many of the children are sick. Most of them have nothing. But they have a smile on their face all of the time.”
Palmer, 25, was accepted to law school at Vanderbilt, but she took some time off before entering school to spend several months at Lily of the Valley which accepted children aged from two to 18.
“When Palmer came home she told us she wanted to adopt a couple of kids from South Africa,” Buddy said. “We told her we would help her, but that she needed to finish law school first.”
Back in Nashville Palmer began working with a lawyer who specialized in international adoptions. She discovered that United States citizens had been approved to adopt orphans from South Africa.
“Palmer just wouldn’t let it go,” Buddy said. “She said that we needed a new adventure. She wanted us to start the adoption process.”
When Buddy, a 1974 graduate and golf coach for both the men’s and women’s teams at Lipscomb, expressed his reluctance Palmer urged her family to pray about it. One of the points of emphasis in those prayers was how the more than $30,000 in funding for the adoption was going to be provided.
“We didn’t have it,” Buddy said. “So we prayed to God if this was what He wanted to do that we would do it. And we would trust in God to help us to get the money.”
God once again came through. Harpeth Hills Church of Christ started a program to fund adoptions. A family friend bought Julie’s airplane ticket. Lipscomb’s athletic department announced its Adoption Rally program where all of the gate receipts, with the exception of season tickets and advanced groups sales will be given to a family to assist with adoption expenses. The Harstons will be the first beneficiaries of the new program as part of the Bisons’ game with Austin Peay Nov. 28.
“When we started this process there wasn’t an adoption program at Harpeth Hills.,” Buddy said. “And then, out of nowhere, the adoption program at the basketball games was started. It’s been pretty amazing really.”
But God wasn’t finished. The Harstons weren’t allowed to pick the child they wanted. But when they were told it would be Aphiwe, Palmer was even more thrilled. Palmer taught English and math at the village. Aphiwe had spent almost every afternoon at her house working on his homework.
Aphiwe’s parents died before he was 2. His grandmother cared for him for a brief time but she was unable to continue. His only option was the street until he was rescued by Lily of the Valley.
“He is one of Palmer’s favorites,” Buddy said. “It was incredible that he happened to be the one that was selected. Taylor had also spent a couple of weeks at Lily of the Valley and she knew Aphiwe as well.
“We found out in the summer that we would be getting Aphiwe,” Harston said. “We did a video Skype for him. Because he was over the age of 8 he could have said no. He was elated once he found out that we were the parents of Palmer and Taylor.”
The Harstons are looking forward to raising a third child and they once again anticipate that God will be part of the process.
“A lot of this is just on faith,” Buddy said. “It was on faith as to who they were going to give us. Palmer says that Aphiwe has such an incredibly kind spirit.
“We want to offer a God-centered family to this child. God is going to take care of us.”
You can support the adoption of Aphiwe by clicking here to purchase tickets to the Nov. 28 basketball game against Austin Peay.