For My Baby Brother

"A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

June 28, 1979, was one of the happiest days of my eleven years of life on this earth. Into our weary, bewildered, and homesick-for-America family came a ray of sunshine that weighed exactly nine pounds. I had begged my parents over and over again for another sibling. Repeatedly, I had heard the word, "no" to my request. God's timing was perfect. Just three weeks before we left for the Congo, my mother sat Nicol, Todd, and I down and told us that we would be having a new sibling born on the African continent to which we were going. My joy could not be contained. I screamed and hollered and jumped around the room in unbridled, exuberant joy. After six months of what seemed to be an interminable wait, my little brother, John "Jack" Scott Smith, was born on the same Congo mission station that our dad had been born thirty-seven years before.

My mother didn't ask me to, I just took over my position as Jack's second mommy. All he had to do was whimper and I would run to get him. He was attached at my hip. My favorite time of the day was rocking him in the wicker swing that hung from the rafters in our upstairs porch during the hot Congo afternoons. I would sing the same song, "Gentleness," over and over softly in his ear as we would swing together. It was from Candle's Music Machine children's album. After several repeats of the song, his little eyes would close as he surrendered to sleep.

Leaving him was heartbreaking when I went to boarding school in seventh grade. Jackie was fourteen months old when I left in August of 1980. I was scared silly that he would forget me in the eight weeks we were apart. As the MAF plane door opened up on our airstrip, I was delirious with joy to see his little arms extended to me as his little legs ran to my side. "Hi, baby!!" I joyfully yelled to him as I picked him up. Our dad recorded one of those happy reunions on his video 8 camera. It still brings tears to my eyes to watch it twenty-eight years later.

(Reunited with Jackie on the day I came home from boarding school, 1981)

Eventually, our eleven-year age separation took its toll. We lived together in the same house for just two years of Jack's life after he turned two. One was when we furloughed in the U.S. when he was three and I was fifteen. The other year was when I attended my sophomore year in college at home at age nineteen and he was eight. Our life stages were vastly different as were our interests.

It has just been recently that we have rekindled the deep affection we have always had for each other. Instead of a little towheaded toddler, I see a wise man of God whom I can respect with all my heart. He has been a source of wisdom and strength in troubling times. I admire him and his choices more than I can say.

And now he's given me another sister, Molly. She is the most patient mommy to their two sweet babies, Bella and Jackson. I am immensely enjoying the fact that time has narrowed the once yawning chasm between our ages. Jack and Molly are some of my favorite people in the whole world to hang out with.

Little brother, I celebrate you today. Your life gave me such joy during lonely days in the Congo. It continues to bring me even more joy today. I love you more than I can say. Happy Birthday from your big sis, Shawn