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