When a friendship is truly meant to be, things just seem to fall right into place. Kelvin Lewis, 18, and Afonso Slater, 18, are the quintessential best friends. They are attached at the hip. Not only do they go to the same school, but they also both play soccer on the same team, and they earned their Eagle Scout badges together. They even double date together all the time! The boys will both be attending Brigham Young University this fall and will continue their friendship as roommates. But it’s the story of how this friendship came to be that is truly profound.
The two boys both lost their parents at a very young age to AIDS while living in Mozambique. The two were completely dependent upon each other growing up in an orphanage in Africa. But in 2008, everything changed. The boys were both adopted at the age of 10 by two separate families in the same town of Gilbert, Arizona. The funny thing is that the two families happened to live just a couple miles apart.
“Where Kelvin is, Afonso is not far behind and vice versa,” LaCinda Lewis, Kelvin’s mom says of the two.. “Their very tight friendship makes perfect sense and is the reason that they are more like siblings than just friends.” The boys have known each other for so long that they can’t even remember a time when they weren’t friends.
Afonso’s parents both died of AIDS when he was just three years old, and Kelvin’s mother died when he was four, and thus both were placed into the same orphanage and have depended upon each other since then. “When I first met Kelvin, Afonso was by his side, arm-in-arm, always,” said Lewis. “They had so little but they had each other and that sustained them.”
Before they had even met him, LaCinda Lewis and her husband, John, had already made the decision to adopt Kelvin in 2002. They had learned about him through Care For Life, a non-governmental organization in Mozambique run by their son’s fiancée and her mother. Kelvin had been found on the streets foraging for food and was dropped off at the orphanage. When the Lewis’ met Kelvin, they knew he was going to be a part of their family. He would be the eighth child for the Lewis family.
As for Afonso, his parents, Greg and Sharon Slater, met him in 2002 while traveling on an AIDS-prevention mission trip. Afonso had two siblings as well and the Slater’s knew in their hearts when they met him that the three were going to be a part of their family. But the road to bringing the boys home wasn’t exactly paved in gold. It took over 6 years for the two families to adopt the boys. They traveled to Mozambique and back to the states repeatedly to visit the boys and in the meantime, they begged and pleaded with officials in the country to allow them to adopt the boys and their siblings.
Courtesy of LaCinda Lewis: Kelvin with John Lewis during a trip to Mozambique.
“We had no idea that Mozambique did not have an adoption agreement with the US or any country for that matter,” Lewis explained. “What we were trying to do was foreign to them.” Unfortunately, Mozambique does not adhere to the agreement knows as the Hague Adoption Convention, which was created in 1993 to help protect international adoptions. The guidelines are set by the government, but in Mozambique, there are no regulations so things were confusing to both sides.
Kelvin himself felt the strain and stress of the adoption process: “Every time [LaCinda] came I thought I’d be able to leave with her, so it was pretty emotional quite often. But she always told me she would come back.” But sometimes struggles can have their silver linings and in this case, it was during one of their many trips back and forth from Mozambique that the Lewis’ learned about Sharon Slater. They discovered that not only would both boys be adopted, but they would be going to the same town and live just two-minutes drive away from each other. Thus, the families decided that they would plan a special surprise reunion for the boys after their adoption. “The only way this makes sense to me is that there was a higher plan for our friendship to last,” Afonso said. “I needed Kelvin back in Mozambique, because we relied on each other for comfort. And I can’t explain it, but it just made sense that he would end up in Arizona too.” Can’t be described as anything but fate for a friendship that has truly withstood the test of time already.