Greetings from Kenya!
Perhaps you have not noticed, but things are a little odd this year! 😊
We have really missed being able to come back and meet with you in person to share what God is doing here in Kenya. So, since we can’t come to you in person, we wanted to share the newly updated MpM magazine!
Despite the chaos in the US, Covid, lack of travel, and just the overall craziness of the world, life and ministry has continued here at MpM.
As was predicted by many, the number of abandoned babies is on the increase. In a one-week period in Sept we received four new babies. And sadly, indications are that this trend will continue.
Ezra Nehemiah was dropped into a pit latrine moments after he was born. Thankfully someone hear his feeble cries and pulled him out.
He was taken to a govt hospital to be cleaned up and cared for. Due to his size (3.5 lbs), and the risk of infection, he was kept at the hospital for nearly a month.
His is yet another story of amazing survival, and we have no doubt God has some special plans for this little one.
Julia Michal is perhaps a better example of what we expect will be a common story in the coming weeks and months. Her mother went to a govt hospital shortly before she gave birth. A few hours after Julia was born the mother told the nurse she needed to go get the baby some clothes. She never returned. When the hospital tried to call the cell number the mother had given them on admission, they found the number was not working.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for a woman to give a false name and phone number when an abandonment is premeditated. We have never been able to understand why the govt hospitals do not take the precaution of confirming these things when admitted. But we have received many newborns under this type of scenario.
The hospital did a “rapid” test for HIV and determined Julia was HIV positive. For a newborn, what this confirms is that the mother is actually positive and the test on the baby reflects the mother’s positive antibodies. As soon as we picked her up, we started her on medication to protect Julia from being infected with her mother’s disease, and took her for a PCR, which is a DNA test to confirm if a baby is truly HIV positive, or just reflecting the mother’s infection. This test is costly so govt hospitals rarely invest in abandoned infants to confirm status. It takes about a week to get the test results, so we continued her meds and covered her in prayer as we waited.
We praise God that when the PCR test result came back Julia was determined to be HIV negative. She will remain on preventative medicines for six months to make sure her mother’s antibodies are out of her system, but all indications are that she will remain healthy and continue growing strong.
The stories of how and why babies are abandoned are heartbreaking, and we are constantly reminded of how we need to pray for a culture that puts so little value on a precious life. As of today, MpM has existed for just over eight years. And in that time, we have played a part in rescuing 243 abandoned, or neglected babies. Every single one is precious in God’s Eyes, and we are so honored to be allowed the privilege of playing a small part in their lives. And we are also honored to have so many of you making it possible!
The big news is that adoptions have started again. While the adoption agencies are just now getting their license to start taking new applications, a couple of them were granted permission to go ahead and start processing adoptions for those who applied before Sept 2019. Since the placements started in mid-July we have had 14 little ones go home with their Forever Families. What a huge blessing it is! And all indications are that we will have several more adopted in the coming weeks.
We have often shared that we only adopt to families that know Jesus as their personal Savior. And many have asked just how we determine that. First and foremost, we spend a lot of time in prayer over every PAP (Potential Adoptive Parent) that we approve. While the adoption agencies match a PAP with a baby, we have the final say on their approval.
Once the agency matches a baby with a PAP, we then have an interview where we ask many questions in an effort to get to know them better. This can sometimes be a challenge as culturally you don’t talk about your salvation, etc. So, we ask general questions and then lead into more specific.
Tell us about your family.
Whose idea was it to adopt?
Share about your faith journey.
Who is Jesus to you?
What does it mean to you to be saved?
Through these, and more questions we can get a good feel for where they stand in their faith.
There have been a few times when we have had to reject a couple at the final interview. This is very painful and hard to do, and usually leaves us with a very upset PAP, but this is one requirement that we will not back down from.
It has been tough not having teams able to come and serve this summer and fall. Thankfully, as we have shared in the past Brea Oravec came onboard and was a huge blessing during our most hectic times. (so far!) Brea was able to travel back to the US for a couple months after she was caught here in the lock down, but will be back in late Oct to jump into her full-time role again.
It was an added blessing for us to have Kaylen Armogum, from our home church back in Indiana, join us shortly after Brea headed west to help fill in the gaps for needed baby care.
Covid continues to make various things a challenge, but overall, we are grateful God has continued to be faithful and provide all our needs.
For the Bell family not being able to travel to see family and friends has been tough on us. There has been very little down time for us, but we did get to take a few days when we had to travel to Nakuru for some immigration paperwork and we snuck in a safari at the Nakuru Park. It was a nice and very needed break.
Many have asked what our travel plans are now that flights have opened back up. And at this point it looks like we will wait until next summer to make the trip back so our furlough lines up with our kids and grandkids “open” time.
Ethan and Selah have just started Grade 5, (as dad wonders how they got there so fast!) and for the most part are excited to get back into school again.
They, like their folks are really missing seeing our kids, grandkids, etc this year. And since March they can count on their fingers the number of times they have left the compound. Like many of you we are missing church and fellowship with the “outside” world.
But we are trusting that by the time next summer rolls around and the world opens back up, we will have lots of extra time to get caught up with all of you.
Until then, we will remain……..
Safely in our Fathers Arms,
It has been far too long since we have sent an update out. There has been a lot happening since the first of the year, many blessings, but also many challenges as we press ahead doing “battle” for the little ones.
Since our last newsletter we have reached a couple of milestones. We surpassed 200 babies rescued, (currently at 207) and surpassed 100 babies adopted. (Currently at 101) It has been a hectic start to the year.
One of our biggest prayer requests over the past couple of years has been in regards to International Adoption opening back up. All indications are that this will not happen. The current government simply will not budge on it, and sadly are doing other things that are making life tougher for us as we advocate for the little ones.
So, in an effort to get some focused prayer for some special little folks, this update is going to focus on them. We currently have seven who are considered “special needs” meaning that each one has a health issue that makes them “almost” impossible to get adopted locally in Kenya. (the only kind of adoption we can do now) There seems to be literally no support from the government to assist these precious ones in getting a Forever Family.
At a meeting I (Dave) was at this week there was a speaker from the government talking about the future of orphan care in Kenya. He is part of the group who are instrumental in Int. adoptions being closed. When the chance arrived I ask point blank what was going to happen to a little one who has a special need and will most likely not be fostered, or adopted by a Kenyan family. I shared Toby’s story (see below) and told of his condition. He tried to skirt the question, but others in the crowd of around 80 wanted his answer. So he said that it was too bad, but some children were just going to suffer due to the rules now. Basically a child, like Toby is considered a “non-person” by many. So, what happens to these angels is clearly in God’s more than capable Hands. And we need to ask for a massive outpouring of prayer for these, and all the other special needs children who seemingly are being “thrown under the bus”.
Let me introduce you to some incredibly special kids!
Adriel Angelina came to us in November 2016 at about one-year old. Her mother left her with a neighbor and said she would be back shortly. She never came back. Angelina was a very sick little girl. The opening on her lower spine indicated Spina Bifida and it appeared she had additional neurological issues. After extensive tests and scans it was determined she has an absent corpus callosum, what is supposed to connect the right and left side of the brain. Some people with this condition can lead a normal life with little complications. Others, struggle to do the most basic of things. We have seen great improvement in Angelina. She laughs and plays and is a total joy to be around. Her muscle tone has improved and she is able to stand in the standing frame. She loves the water therapy and has benefitted from it much. But she has a long way to go and really needs to be in a family that is able, and willing to give her a lot of one on one love and care.
Peter James came to us 11 months ago after he was abandoned in a brushy area and found by a passer-by. He was about two weeks old at the time. After a couple of weeks, he was admitted to the hospital as he was a very sick little boy, having a fever and trouble breathing. With treatment he recovered quickly, but while at the hospital it was confirmed that he is HIV +. Aside from his status, he is a healthy and happy little boy. Like most of our special needs babies, he is freed for adoption and is only waiting for the family God prompts to come get him.
Mary Rose has stolen a lot of hearts since she arrived at MpM! In October of 2017 we received a call from a children’s officer we work with frequently who told us she got a call from another officer a few hours south of us. She had an abandoned baby, and none of the homes in her area would take her due to her testing positive for HIV. She asked if we would be willing and we quickly said “yes!” When Mary arrived we determined her age to be 14 months although she weighed 12 lbs. She was very sick, and had wounds up and down her legs. We rushed her to the hospital where they determined she had severe sepsis and the Dr. said she was a Stage 4 HIV case, meaning she was near death. It was a long and slow process, with Jen and Mary spending many days at different hospitals fighting the virus that was determined to kill her. But God did what only He can do, and Mary is now a beautiful and happy blessing who loves life. Like most of our HIV + children her viral load is non-detectable, meaning that she is very heathy and cannot spread the virus to others. She can lead a perfectly normal life (while taking her medication) and have a family and a great future living positively! All she needs now is a family who is willing to take her in and love her.
Zilpah Eve is perhaps our winner in the “Miss Personality” contest! While Eve can be moody, she can also be a little love bug. In October, 2016 we were contacted to come get a little girl who was abandoned by her mother at the national government hospital in Nairobi. Her mother had given birth to her three months before and then
abandoned her. Even though they knew the mother was HIV+ the hospital made no effort to treat Eve. And sadly waited three months to contact us. When a baby is exposed to HIV by her mother, it is very likely that the proper medication and diet can protect the baby from being infected. Eve is an example of the typical care babies receive in government hospitals. By the time we got her into our care the virus had infected little Eve’s body as well. Now at almost three years of age, Eve is ready for her own family to boss around! ☺
Almost three years ago we got a call to come pick up a little boy who was abandoned by his mother at a clinic where he was born. He was 11 days old when we met Shadrach Jason. He quickly became “Shaddy” and started earning his place in the pecking order of babies at MpM. On arrival he appeared to be a very healthy baby, with all tests coming back normal. After a few months he developed some Eczema which was treated with medicated cream. By December he was continuing to have skin issues and a lot of different creams and medicines were tried. At seven months of age he started showing signs of being allergic to bananas and avocado. Other foods seemed to be affecting him negatively also. In April we took him to see an Allergist and it was found that he was allergic to almost everything. Further tests showed he had an Auto Immune Deficiency.
It has been a long and tough road for Shaddy, everything from the sun to dust has a negative effect on him. Thankfully, as he grows older some things like dairy, do not bother him as much.
Shaddy, like Eve, Mary, Michael, Angelina, Peter James, and Toby are all victims of much more than a “condition” that affects their little bodies. They are victims of a culture that has little room for anything other than a “perfect” baby.
We honestly do not know what the future holds for each of these little ones. “Our” plan was to have babies up to age two. And to either have them returned to biological family, or adopted into their own Forever Family before they turn two. But here we are, with a growing number of toddlers approaching age three. They are approaching an age where pre-school is a norm here in Kenya. Their developmental needs are changing fast, and much different than the infants we started out as our main focus.
Even if we wanted to start a home for the older special needs children, the government is not allowing “new” homes to start up.
So this different, and longer than normal newsletter update is not about asking for funds. While those are needed, it is not what is needed most.
What is needed most is prayer.
Join us praying that each of these precious gifts from God will continue to grow in His love and come to understand that they have a Father who will never consider them anything but perfect.
Join us in praying that families will be bold enough to say “no” to culture and be willing to open their hearts and homes to these special kids.
Join us in praying that each one’s health will continue to improve and allow them to enjoy a life that they deserve.
Join us in praying for the government of Kenya to have a change of heart, to start recognizing the value of all “special” children and to do whatever is necessary for them to get a family to love them.
And finally, please join us in praying for wisdom, stamina, and discernment on our part as we seek to give these little ones all they need.
If ever we have shared a pressing and urgent need, this is it. And it costs you nothing more than a little time in the presence of our Creator, pleading for Him to move hearts.
Thank you for being a partner, and family of this ministry.
Thank you for making a difference, one life at a time.
Striving to serve Him,
Dave, Jen, Ethan, and Selah
As I know all of you are doing, we are looking back at 2019 and wondering where it went. So much has happened over the past 12 months, some of it incredible blessings, and some, well, let’s just say did not feel like a blessing! But in all things we know God is in control and we strive each day to leave it is His very capable Hands.
These three amigos are still with us. Eve, Mary, and Shaddy (along with some others) are still waiting on their Forever Families to come forward.
We have had some adoptions, reintegration with family, etc., and Shaddy often asks at prayer time where his mommy and daddy, or aunt and uncle, or grandmother are, and when they will be coming for him.
The adoptions we have had are the “wrapping up” of those approved before all Kenyan adoption agencies lost their license. Overall, adoptions are still closed and we do not see that changing in the foreseeable future as political games continue.
For the little ones that have no biological family known, adoption is about their only option. For those that do have biological family, the push by the government is to get them reunited with family as soon as possible.
We have had several return to family, and while we do not always feel it is the “best” option, the government and court here insist many times that this is the path that has to be taken.
When possible, and when there is a way to hold them accountable, we do assist for a period of time with things like supplies, medical needs, etc. This is a fine line as abuse of this type of system is very common. (Supplies get sold instead of used for the baby)
Something we had never done before was to directly enable a mother to take her “once abandoned” baby back.
On August 1 our staff got a call to come and collect a baby girl, age around 15 months who was abandoned at the police station. Rhoda had clear signs of malnutrition, and appeared to have “something” else going on with her.
Because of Jen’s personal experience with it, she soon suspected a thyroid issue, so tests were done to see if that might be the problem. The bloodwork confirmed that her thyroid was not functioning correctly so Rhoda was put on medicine to help stabilize that issue. She started improving right away and we saw some positive gains in weight and development.
In the last couple of months our social worker was able to track down the person who took her to the police station and had reported her as abandoned. As it turned out it was the mother herself who took her daughter to the police.
She had taken Rhoda to many doctors and had many tests run trying to determine what was wrong. None could define the issue, although many “test medicines” were attempted. The mother only knew that her daughter was getting worse and she feared for her life.
So as a last ditch effort, she took her baby to the police in hopes that someone would take her in and be able to nurse her back to health.
After hearing the mother’s story, we agreed to work towards getting mother and child back together. So Patricia, the mother, started coming to MpM a couple of days a week to care for Rhoda and learn how to provide the care she needs. It was quickly clear that this mother loved her daughter and wanted to do all she could to care for her. Patricia had a job as a nursery school teacher, although pay was less than $50 a month and the school is closed four months out of the year. So she had little means of taking care of herself, let alone her daughter.
As it became clear Patricia was quite repentant of her previous actions and was a hard worker ready to do what is needed to provide for her daughter, we offered her a full-time job as a cleaner/caregiver. We are trusting that by mid January Patricia will be in a position to take her daughter home with her.
Situations like Patricia’s are not uncommon, and we are thrilled that, at least in this case, we are able to benefit her with a job, and also hire someone who is looking to better their lives. And most importantly, allow Rhoda to go back to her home with a loving mother who will provide for her.
We continue to be quite concerned about our special needs kids. While there is hope that adoptions will one day open up again, it is still unlikely Kenyans will adopt any of them. So our prayers continue to be for not only adoption opening up, but specifically International adoptions so these extra special kids can get a home.
Currently we have seven who fall in to this category, and while our hearts ache for each of our babies to get a family, it is especially hard when these seven’s future seem so unclear.
With the above mentioned kids getting older, and with the need for focused therapy for others, it was an extra big blessing earlier this year when a partner made our dream of having a therapy pool come true. We ended up with a much larger pool (which provides therapy for big people also!) than we had planned, but in His Wisdom, God knew exactly what we needed. It has been incredible to see the difference water therapy has made for them.
It has also been a year of “going solar” as we added a solar unit to supplement our power supply. Electricity costs here are much higher than in the US, and as you can imagine keeping everything going here takes a lot of electricity! Our monthly bill had been in the $600 range, so it made sense to try something to bring it down. With a special designated gift from one of our partnering churches, that “something” came to pass. We are now seeing our electricity costs below $400 a month, and we anticipate it going even lower as the system is completed.
And the lessening of being reliable on the “grid” is also a plus as attested by a stretch of over six days in December when the power was out. Kenyan utilities do not have quite the same standards as the US ones. But we were reminded to praise God for our generator which really got a workout this month! (150 gallons of diesel later!)
Many have asked what our monthly expenses are, or what specific expenses they might be able to help with. Some have expressed an interest in sponsoring a particular expense we have each month. This has always been tough to pin down as it can vary so much. But, to come up with as accurate numbers as possible we have taken an average of the past 24 months.
During this period our monthly average number of babies under our care has been 25. We have been as high as 31 and as low as 21.
Perhaps there is a certain item here that you, your family, your Bible study group, etc., would consider taking on in whole, or in part over the next year.
In no particular order, here are some of the monthly average expenses:
Formula $1,164 Food $ 684
Milk $ 194 Diapers $1,322
Baby Wipes $ 421 Cleaning $ 175
Medical $ 693 Physical Therapy $ 375
Electricity $ 322 Staff $3,500
Telephone $ 35 Transportation $ 792
Farm Produce upkeep $ 238 (chickens, turkeys, fish, rabbits, garden)
Sometimes it is tough to come up with what prayer requests to list here, the needs can be so overwhelming at times. But here are the ones that seem to top our list when we slip into our quiet time before our King.
⮚ Lift up the whole adoption process here. The politics continue to present a huge hurdle and an air of uncertainty with the entire process. One day we will get a glimmer of hope, only to have it dashed the next day. Pray that God opens the hearts of those politicians who have the final say when, and if, adoptions will open back up.
⮚ Pray especially for our three year olds, it is tough on them knowing that “some” babies were adopted, so why not them?
⮚ We continue to have some cases where we are trying to determine if babies can be reunited with biological family as the government is pushing for. In some cases, it simply is not a safe situation, and often a parent who abandoned a baby does not really want them back, but will take them to gain favor with the court and avoid arrest.
⮚ We selfishly ask prayers for our family. This has been a very stressful year on us all. Pray that we seek God’s Face first, and remember that our first “mission” is to our family. This can be a challenge when the needs of the babies are so great.
⮚ For the upcoming year, we ask prayers that God reveals Himself and His Will for this ministry and for these little ones placed in our care.
⮚ Finally, we ask you to join us in a prayer of thanksgiving for you, our partners, that make this ministry possible.
Thank you for making a difference, one life at a time.
Striving to serve Him,
Dave, Jen, Ethan, and Selah
Greetings from Kenya!
This update contains some very exciting news for us, and also shares a bit of what is going on here at MpM with all the “world gone crazy” happening around us. The Cornavirus has affected us here in ways we would not have imagined a couple of weeks ago.
It has been a bit of a roller coaster for us lately as we found out that a couple of the adoption agencies were ready to start placing babies for adoption again. We quickly had one of the agencies send a social worker with some potential Forever Family matches so we could pray through them. And we were excited to find a minimum of six good matches for some of our littles.
But, the day before the adoption committee was to approve the matches and release the babies for adoption, Coronavirus caused a government shutdown which trickled down to almost everyone. So once again we are in a holding pattern, waiting on the powers that be to do something. Sadly, the incoming has not stopped so with our latest addition (at the time of this typing!) brought us to 32 babies at MpM. We are quite literally bursting at the seams! We were out celebrating Ethan’s birthday last week when we got the call for our newest, so we let Ethan name him. His name pick was Ethan James, so now we have two Ethans at our house!
It also means our staff are working a bit harder than normal. As we work to add additional help to care for the babies, we have been VERY blessed to have Brea Oravec join us the past couple of months. We have known Brea for many years as her family went to the same church we did when we lived in WI many years ago. Brea’s mom, Sandie, is also the one who makes and sells lots of hand-made critters, and puts in many hours in other ways to raise funds for MpM. (If you follow us on Facebook you have seen pictures of the Owls, Mahali Monsters, and much more.)
Brea had been here on short term trips a couple of times before, and shared with us last year that she felt God was calling her here full-time. As we prayed, we also felt this Calling was genuine, but we wanted her to spend three months here to confirm it for us all.
So, in mid-January she traveled to Kenya and became a part of the team caring for the babies. It became clear quickly that God had indeed planted in her a deep passion for the babies and she has become a very strong part of the team here.
We are sending you this exciting announcement that Brea is joining MpM for (at least) a two-year term as the International Communications Director, as well as being an Auntie to the babies and assisting in their care and growth.
The plan was for her to be here until April 8, and then return to the US for a couple of months to continue building a prayer and support team. And then return in mid-June as a full-time staff member. But………………………..
……… back to the Coronavirus shutdown. With all that is going on, travel being suppressed, etc., it looks like she will not be able to leave here on April 8. While we are excited that she will still be here to help out with the ministry, she is going to lose some valuable face time building her support team.
At this point we are unsure when she will be able to return to the US for a time, but we are praying it can work out for her to travel in late April and then return in mid-June to be here while we Bells leave for our furlough.
Having Brea here is a huge blessing for us, especially when we are on furlough.
I share all of that to put before you a request, for you to pray about becoming a part of the critical team that Brea needs as she serves here. There is no question that the prayer support you have given this ministry, and the Bell family over the past years has been critical for our survival.
Brea needs that same undergirding of prayer as she enters the mission field full-time. She has only begun to experience some of the hurdles and challenges that Satan will put in front of her as she strives to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus here at MpM.
Secondly, while not as critical as the prayer support, she needs the funding to enable her to serve here.
You have enabled this ministry to rescue 234 babies since we started, and place 113 little ones with their new Forever Family. (We trust this number will soon climb quickly!)
We now ask you to consider enabling Brea to help this ministry grow and reach even more abandoned angels.
Monthly or one time gifts can be sent to Mahali pa Maisha, PO Box 262, Sulphur Springs, IN 47388. Or donations can be made on our website at mpmkenya.org. Just note that the gifts are for Brea Oravec. By the way, check out our updated website, new video, and more. Brea did that as well! :)
As for the Bell family, we are pressing on each day and while many days seem like they may overwhelm us, it has been clear that God is giving us all we need to make it through.
Since mid Sept there has been only two nights that we did not have at least one, and usually more, babies in our home. So especially for Jen, a full nights sleep is simply unknown.
Ethan and Selah are doing well in school and are making their way through 4th Grade. Granted, they do wonder why their friends are out of school (due to the virus shutdown) and they have to keep doing it each day! :)
We are closely following the news in the US and elsewhere regarding the Coronavirus news and wanted to let you know that Kenya certainly has not escaped the turbulence. As mentioned above the government has shut down many if not all of its branches which included the courts which we need to handle many legal items.
Our local store, (while we do still have toilet paper!) has limited the number of people in the store to 50 at any one time. And no children are allowed in.
We have planned our furlough back to the US from June 24 until Aug 19, but as with many things, those dates look like they need to be fluid if travel restrictions do not change.
So, there are many prayer requests we would ask you to lift up to our Father on a regular basis please:
Safely in our Fathers Arms,