Like many of you, as we look back over 2021 there is so much heartache and pain. The year started with the loss of David’s parents. And while we know they are in a much better place, pain and worry free, they are sorely missed by those of us left behind.
The continuing ripple effects of Covid, and all the challenges that it is bringing with it continue to be a struggle that affects life in so many ways.
Our hearts broke as we got word, and heard so many horror stories of friends and family who were devastated by the severe storms in Western KY.
Old Man Time was surely limping out the door as the new year rang in!
But the reminders that God is truly in control continued to overcome the many challenges that came our way.
At Mahali pa Maisha, it ended up being a year filled with blessings as we saw adoptions take off again in an awesome way.
From mid-February until the end of December we had been blessed to be a part of 26 little ones getting their Forever Families. There were many smiles, laughter, and more than a few tears of joy shed. To date, 165 little ones have been placed with Christian Forever Families.
In case there is someone who was not aware, we received legal guardianship of Shaddy last June, which was required for us to travel back to the US with him. His trip back was a huge success and gave him much improvement with his eczema, and we made headway with his allergies. God willing, he will return to the US with us this summer to continue some testing and treatment. Shaddy is also a big reason we are praying hard for International Adoption to open back up.
Sadly, there were a few that had to be transferred to another children’s home due to their age, and not being adoptable for one reason or another. It is for these children considered “special needs”, that our heart yearns and pleads for the Government to take the step of opening International Adoption once again.
We ended up transferring five little ones to other homes for a variety of reasons. Our focus is on getting little ones either reintegrated to biological family, or adopted, in the cases where neither option is possible, (and our age limit of two years is exceeded) we have little choice but to transfer. Thankfully, most have been transferred to another well ran home that will be open to adoption once International opens again.
A surprising statistic for us in 2021 was the intakes. We took in 14 new little ones during the year. Surprising because we thought covid would cause a huge surge in abandonment cases. We pray that this is a cultural shift and not just a temporary lull in abandoned infants.
To date we have rescued 265 infants, our latest, Mahlah Star, was abandoned on Christmas Day. With the decrease in intakes, and the increase in adoptions we have seen our total population drop into the teens from a high of 36. This is a huge blessing as our staff, and Jen, had reached a point of near exhaustion keep up with so many little ones. You, our partners, and family, have made all this possible. So many Forever Families have been created, so many lives changed for the better. Thank you.
As far as the Bell family, we continue to press on each day, with every moment filled with so many questions that only God knows the answer to. We face each day with the same question we have had for the past 22 years since we felt the first call to the mission field: “What’s next God?”
The trip back to the US last summer was filled with some incredible family time and a lot of laughter and loving. We did not get to visit nearly as many of you as we had hoped, partially due to covid limitations, but mostly due to Shaddy needing to be close to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on a regular basis.
And when we returned to Kenya, things took off so fast that there was little rest gained from the “break”. In early December we did get a week away to the coast and mostly became hermits in our beach house rental with lots of games, reading, and laughter. Our biggest concern was the monkeys that kept going into our open kitchen and stealing our food! Once our early Christmas retreat was over, it only took 24 hours for another little one to come into our home. And there have been few nights we have been without a baby in our house since.
Our big New Years Eve part included a late night pool party, and a late night that we made it all the way to 10:00 PM! (we are getting old ya know!) Our plans are to be back in the US from mid-July until mid-Sept again this year and hope to see as many of you as possible. We will be in touch closer to our travel time share the schedule.
Again, thanks so much for being a part of the team and family that make this ministry possible.
Safely in His Grip,
Wow, where do I even start. Our last newsletter was in October of last year. Five months ago. In ways it seems like it has been five weeks, and in others, five years.
There is no doubt a lot has happened in the past five months. But as I try and review it all, my brain is numb and its hard to even put into words what is bouncing around in my gray matter.
God has been at work in the ministry here at MpM in so many ways. And I will share more about that. But for me personally, (Dave) it is hard to remember much other than mid-December through mid-January.
As I am sure most of you know I lost both mom and dad in that time period. For the past few years, each time we left the US to return to Kenya, we knew it may be the last time I saw them this side of Heaven. And dad was always quick to say that he was proud of me, and he would see me again, “someday”. But for me, I always thought my next trip back, he and mom would be waiting to greet us. The warm hugs, the smiles, the catching up on what has been happening. The traditional “first night back pizza party with them. And always the long hours spent remembering with them.
The last time I visited with both of them was in Sept 2019. Just a short time before they sold their home in Hagerstown and moved to assisted living. It was not an easy transition for them, but one that was needed. And dad and I had a long talk about what lie ahead. I left that day, knowing it may be the last time I got to hug him and tell him I love him in person.
With Covid forcing us to cancel our furlough in 2020, that proved to be just the case. Dad went Home on Dec 26,2020.
I am so grateful I have siblings and in-laws who were able to be there for my folks. I would have never believed how tough it would be being 8,000 miles away during the hardest part of mom and dad’s lives. I was able to go back for dad’s celebration. And it was a time of remembering the Godliest man who ever lived, at least the Godliest man I ever knew. It was good to have a chance to talk about memories with family. And it was wonderful to be able to spend several hours with mom during my visit.
But when I left, I feared mom was not doing as well as she wanted us to believe.
Only a couple of days after I left to return to Kenya, mom was admitted to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing, and while they determined she had covid, they also said there was damage to her lungs that had been there a long time. Damage that would have caused her to struggle to breath and have energy.
But in typical “mom” fashion, we never knew. The hardest part was mom was losing her short-term memory, so the family that was allowed in to see her had to remind her often that dad was gone. And she would start to grieve all over again.
24 days. It was the longest mom and dad had been apart in their 72 years of marriage. And I believe it was the hardest 24 days of her life. Mom was ready to be with dad again, and she let everyone know it. Including the Dr. On January 19, mom got her wish and I know dad was dancing around and jumping for joy when she crossed over. Due to covid, and many logistics I was unable to make the trip back again so quickly. So, I was left with watching mom’s celebration via video feed. Nice, but it sure did not take the place of grieving, and remembering with my family.
And in 24 short days, I became what we have been serving for so many years here in Kenya. An orphan. But an orphan that has been blessed beyond what any words can describe. Blessed to be the seventh child of Myron and Phyllis Bell.
So, while 2020 was tough, 2021 definitely started out a bit tougher.
We had shared in our last newsletter that adoptions were starting up again. And they did. Sadly, they stopped almost as fast as they started! The Adoption Agencies were trying to get to a back log of applicants cleared, and almost all wanted to adopt girls only. Sadly, this left an overabundance of boys with little chance of getting adopted.
With some agencies trying to get all the right pieces together, and others still trying to get their registration approved, we ended up with a couple months of no little ones going out, but still had new ones arriving. So….
We quickly reached a point of “bursting at the seams” in regard to little blessings. Our intent, and goal has always been to have a population of 20 little ones. That is what our physical planning, our staff capacity, and much more was based on. But, for the past few years we have had around 30 little ones under our care.
It seemed every time we were able to get some adopted, we would get a call for multiple new ones that had been abandoned. It has been wearing on all of us for some time, but when covid hit, and all the ripple effects, plus the above-mentioned personal challenges, we finally reached a point where we needed to change something. So, one of the toughest decisions we have prayed through had to be made. (As it turned out the first of multiple tough decisions!)
On December 12, we got a call for our 251st rescue. And we also hit a population of 32 little ones. We were having too many “mistakes” being made by staff due to exhaustion, and simply being overwhelmed. So, we contacted all the children’s officers, police stations, etc. that would normally call us when they had an infant to rescue, and let them know that we would not be accepting new intakes until further notice. We determined that we would not accept new intakes until we were able to get our population below 20.
This has been harder than you can imagine as when we get a phone call, we know it is very possible an infant we turn away, will end up at a government home where the care is substandard at best. We have been praying for those “possible abandonments” fervently. And we are relieved that, at least for the present time, we have received very few phone calls. And all but a couple were quickly placed with biological family. And the couple that were not, ended up at foster homes that are able to care for them.
January brought with it some continued rumblings from the government indicating that children’s rights continue to be no where near the top of their concerns.
Decisions and plans continued to be developed that make adoption, and our care of abandoned infants tougher and tougher. Many of these plans are still in the developmental stages, and we honestly do not know what lies ahead of us. We continue to cling to God and try to remember that He loves these little ones much more than we do. (More on these govt plans below...) Thankfully, by the time February rolled around adoptions had started again. As of today, we have had three little ones go with their new Forever Families since February 1. This coming week we have two more placements, and it appears over the next few weeks, several more.
We continue to be amazed at how God matches these blessings with their families. So many things seem to fall into place with each one. And to know each one is going home to a home that loves Jesus is an extreme honor for us.
As excited as we are to have these adoptions started again, our hearts are breaking for our older kids, our “toddlers”.
Seven precious children that we have cared for since they were abandoned as infants. Seven lives that are as intertwined with ours, as our own children.
According to our guidelines our maximum age is two years old. Our plan in the beginning was to have all children either returned to biological family, or adopted long before they are 24 months old. We have kept them here as we pray for an adoption to change their lives.
Sadly, these seven Special children stand a very small chance of being adopted. Because they are considered “special needs” children (HIV+, Downs Syndrome, Autoimmune Deficiency, or a neurological condition, Kenyans will not adopt them.
The oldest is now approaching five years old. We have loved them and treated them as our own for years as we waited.
We have clung to hope hard as we can, praying for international adoption to open back up, which would assuredly find them in a loving family.
But sadly, it has become clear, short of an incredible miracle from God, that this government will not allow international adoption to happen again. Despite a new Children’s Bill that is supposed to be passed making an allowance for international adoption, the President has issued a moratorium that over rides any Bill passed by the Senate. Much like the US President’s use of Executive Powers. And at the same time, there is a movement in the works that will allow this current president to continue in power even beyond his “final” term as president.
So, as these Special children approach school age, we find we have no choice but to start working towards having them transferred to another home who is set up for school age kids. We have been told by our Children’s Officer that since our maximum age is supposed to be two years, that she can require us to transfer them at her discretion, and her preference is for them to go to a government home where, due to their condition, they would rapidly be isolated and treated as “oddities”.
Because of this we are taking an aggressive stance, and working towards placing them in a home not far from us that has leadership that looks at the children much like we do. Another home that puts Jesus at the forefront of all decisions.
There are still details to be worked out, but we deeply appreciate your prayers for our wisdom and discernment as we wade into these painful decisions over the coming months.
Only Angelina, who is the most severe case due to an absent corpus callosum, has a glimmer of hope as a family that adopted another of our babies has expressed interest. So, we also ask prayers for the many hurdles that need to be crossed to make that happen are resolved quickly. We are making plans to come back to the US mid-July to mid Sept, so we are trying to get as much resolved by that time as we can.
While back this summer, we do hope to see as many of you as possible. But, with the passing of my folks fresh in our minds, we are also going to be focusing on family as much as possible. As we get our schedule figured out, we will let you know of events going on that we can catch up with you.
This letter has gotten much longer than normal so I will wrap things up. But please, if you are willing, lift this ministry, and Jen and I up in prayer as we deal with more unknowns than we have ever had hit us at once. Like you, we are tired of covid and all it has interrupted. And that only makes all the other challenges we are dealing with harder.
So, as I close, I want to thank you for being such an important part of this team as you lift us before God asking for His Mercies on us.
Please pray for the babies, that they get families as soon as possible.
Pray for the older kids as they adjust to new changes and a new family that is not quite what they, or us, have been praying for. Pray for the staff, they struggle to understand why the decisions ahead of us have to be made. Even though they are Kenyans, the things their government do is confusing and frustrating. (sound familiar??)
Finally, please lift the Bell family up in prayer. We are exhausted and ready for the break this summer. We never realized how much our annual furlough meant to us until we had to skip it last year.
If you have questions on any of this, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, we will continue to seek, and cling to God in all we do. Dave, Jen, Ethan, and Selah
I had every intention of sending out this update “as soon” as we got back to Kenya. Well….. between jet lag and life, it is a bit late!
I am amazed at how much we packed into eight weeks, and yet how much we did not get done we wanted to. There was so many of you we wanted to visit with, and so many other places we wanted to go.
In those cases, the adoption agencies are now requiring a signed statement written by the person who found the infant. If that statement is gotten immediately after the baby is found, it seems its not a problem. But trying to track, and then get them to do a statement months later has proven to be quite a challenge.
We also continue to ask you to pray for International Adoptions to open back up. The new Children’s Bill is being presented to Parliament in Oct, and as it is written now it allows that to happen. But it is also prone to be edited by political powers before it’s final passage. So, prayers for the right people to do the right thing would be appreciated.
I know many followed along with us as we traveled to the US with Shaddy, and we so appreciate the prayer covering we had. For those who were not “connected” allow me to give a quick update. Especially since we did not post anything much on FB due to the sensitive nature of us having him there.
Shadrach Jason, “Shaddy” has been with us since he was 11 days old. Abandoned in the slums of Nairobi at a small clinic after his mother gave birth to him.
Shaddy had skin and tummy issues right away, and as we sought answers to what was causing it, it only got worse over time. Fast forward five years and we had run lots of tests here in Kenya, providing little help other than confirming he was allergic to many things.
An Allergist in the US, after looking at some of his bloodwork and tests, suggested he had what is known as Hyper IgE
Syndrome. That is a severe condition that shortens the life span drastically, and greatly lowers the quality of life.
We quickly found that there is little, or no information about it here in Kenya. No one seemed to be studying or recognizing this condition. So, the only choice was to take him to the US where we could find experts in dealing with his condition.
The hurdles to get permission to travel to the US with him were many, and in most cases seemingly impossible to get past. God revealed Himself in many ways and opened doors that most thought locked.
Bottom line, we were able to travel with Shaddy to the US in mid-July after connecting with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and them agreeing to see him.
At first, we had an appointment for him just a few days after we arrived in the US. But when we found out he had to be off all his medication that controlled his eczema, tummy issues, itching, and more for seven days prior, we decided it was best to delay the appointment so he could be on his meds while we traveled and he took his first airplane ride.
He did great on the 26+ hours of travel to reach the US, and as it turned out, the plane was just one of many firsts for this little guy!
When he met his big brothers and sisters (our sons and daughter in laws), and his new nephews (our grandsons) he could not stop talking about all his new family. His world had been so small by comparison to what he was experiencing now.
Within the first seven days he got his first boat ride, his first horse ride, and he had his mind blown away by so many new friends in Kentucky as we visited Mayfield and the surrounding area.
We were blessed to be given the use of a lake house on KY Lake which included a very nice pontoon boat. While we were there, one of our Board members had a contact of a fantastic equestrian farm that was owned by a gal who had a huge heart for kids with special needs. Not only Shaddy, but Ethan and Selah as well were blessed to get to ride horses till their takos (rear ends) were tired of it! It was a great way to start our time in the US!
We had already planned a family vacation with all our kids and grandkids the second week back in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. So, from KY we headed east for the beach.
I wish I could share a video of Shaddy’s first exposure to the ocean, this picture does not do it justice, but just imagine your brain suddenly being infused with a thousand times more knowledge than you ever had.
All I could think of after experiencing his reaction was the title of the best book ever written (in my opinion!) by Mike Yanconelli. Dangerous Wonder. The combination of fear, excitement, joy, anxiety,….. electricity hitting on every cell in his brain.
Everything this little boy had ever known was about to be amplified.
Because of his severe allergies to fish, dust mites, and more, we were concerned how his skin would react to the salt water. And because of his open sores from eczema we feared it would be painful for him. As it turned out none of things were an issue for him. In fact, the salt water seemed to help his skin, and the extra energy he burned up while playing on the beach helped us all sleep a bit better!
It was a wonderful and fun week of loving and laughing with our family. It was one of those vacations that we all wished would last “just one more day”.
Once our vacation was over it was time to get started on Shaddy’s medical visits.
Our first visit was a chance for the Allergist to evaluate Shaddy and do some bloodwork to see just what was going on.
It was also a day that brought a huge answer to prayer. After about 10 minutes with Shaddy the Dr stated without doubt that Shaddy did not have Hyper IgE syndrome. She came to that conclusion from his lacking certain “markers” that are consistent with the syndrome. This was a big relief as it meant that he did not have the life shortening condition we had anticipated confirming.
But, because of all his allergic reactions to so many things, we knew there was “something” going on.
After the initial testing it was determined he has Acute Eczema, which is triggering all the allergic reactions. Still a pretty serious issue as many things can cause him to suffer severe asthma attacks.
Because his IgE reading was so high, over 35,000 when “normal” is 0-60, it was difficult to determine just what allergies were dangerous for him. The high IgE reading causes all allergy tests to be positive, even if he is not allergic to some things.
So, the only way to confirm what is a truly bad allergen is to do a series of Food Challenges, which amount to giving him very small portions of certain suspected serious allergens while under medical supervision.
The hard part is that these challenges have to be a minimum of two weeks apart, and also, he has to be off almost all his medication that helps him breath and controls his itching, etc.
Due to him picking up an illness the week before his first challenge was scheduled, we had to cancel that one. So, during our time back we were able to only do one Food Challenge with him. That particular challenge was for eggs, and they started him by eating a piece of boiled egg not much bigger than a pin head.
Every 20 minutes they would increase the amount slightly and we would watch for reactions. There were supposed to be a total of nine exposures, but as they started to give him the fourth one, which was still very small, we noticed large welts appearing on his body.
The Dr decided to stop before we caused his asthma to be an issue. So, it was clear that eggs are a major issue for him.
There are many other things we avoid with him as we just don’t know how dangerous they are, such as dairy, fish, nuts, etc. Until we can return him to Cincinnati on our next trip and continue with the Food Challenges, we will just have to be careful and watch what he eats closely.
Regarding his eczema, he is doing incredible with the new creams the Dr prescribed. Sadly, it is a steroid cream so it is not a long term solution due to side effects.
The best possible solution would be an injection called Dupixent which would lower his IgE and help to manage all symptoms. However, this is not available until someone is six years, and is only for someone who is a US Resident. It also costs around $4500 per month! We are trying to reach out to the company and see what options are for Shaddy, and if there is a way we can make it work.
In the middle of all of these medical tests and treatments, Shaddy also had surgery to repair a rather large umbilical hernia which he has had since birth. We praise God that it went very well and there have been no complications. Although it did take him a very long time to wake up after the surgery. We think he was just taking advantage of a great sleep!
I do want to share that while our travel was much more limited than normal, which kept us from seeing many of you, we were very blessed by two great events that allowed us to raise funds for the ministry, but even better to be able to see so many old, and new friends of the ministry!
Our fourth “annual” MpM Golf outing was a huge success with a full slate of golfers and a beautiful day. There were lots of prizes and fun had by all. We greatly appreciate Amanda
Norris and her incredible ability to plan and pull off this event. Keep watching as she is already making plans for the 2022 outing which looks to be bigger and better than ever.
Our second event was new for us this year, and honestly we did not know what to expect. I had been wanting to do a Sporting Clay Shoot for years, but just did not have the time myself to do it. However, God provided two new Board members last year, Cory and Amanda Witmer and they did an awesome job of pulling off the first annual MpM Sporting Clay at Warsaw, IN.
We had 48 shooters and while the temp was pretty toasty, everyone had a great day. Lots of awesome prizes were won, and some great food capped off a super day. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the event was that of the 48 shooters, around 35 of them had no prior knowledge of MpM. Like the Golf Outing, we are already making plans for next year to be bigger and better! We are always looking for new ideas for events that give us a chance to get in front of new people and share what God is doing here in Kenya. So, if you have a desire to plan and host an event, please let us know!
The Bells are pretty much finally over the jet lag that hit us hard on this trip. Things are picking back up here ministry wise, and last night we got our first new arrival in a few months. Hannah Ruth was abandoned at a small clinic after her mother gave birth, and then ran out the door a few minutes later. It is so hard to understand what is going on in the mind of a woman in a case like this. But it also reminds us to lift them in prayer.
Hannah tested positive for HIV, which means her mother is positive. We pray that for Hannah her test will turn negative which means it is only her mother’s antibodies showing up in the early test.
We again want to thank you all for the prayers, love, and support during our time in the US, and ongoing as we press on each day through the ministry here.
As always, we are clinging firmly to our Fathers Hand,
Dave, Jen, Ethan, Selah, and Shaddy
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,