It’s been a hard year.

As a dear friend of mine put it, it was a year of God allowing really hard things, but putting things in place to overcome and not be destroyed.

Today is the one-year- anniversary of Abigail’s open heart surgery.

Abigail the day before surgery, days away from 7 months old and weighing barely 10 lbs. She was always tired.

The memories and emotions flood back to me like it was yesterday. Her in my stretchy wrap carrier, tight against my chest. Me, swaying and bouncing her with the pacifier in her mouth, trying to convince her she wasn’t really that hungry (because she wasn’t allowed to eat since 10 am and it was now 4:30 pm and the surgery schedule was running late.)The surgery team approaching us to let us know it was her turn. We walked together to the doors of the theatre and then I had to place her in the their arms. I handed my baby girl to near strangers to cut her open. Before I even turned around I felt the hot tears swell in my eyes. All we could do now is wait. Pray and wait.

Minutes ticked into hours. I paced the outdoor corridors even though there was a cold misty rain. I tried to sleep. I tried to eat. I tried to act normal but it was impossible. Waiting, praying, waiting, praying. The head surgeon finally comes to find me. “Everything went perfect” he said. My eyes got hot with tears again. He said I had to wait a little longer to see her. I continued to pace and stay nearby, waiting and praying, for their call.

I remember approaching her bedside, 9:40 pm. She looked so tiny and helpless with all the tubes and wires coming out of her. She was still heavily sedated so I waited and prayed and waited and prayed. When she first opened her eyes and looked at me it was like I was meeting her for the first time all over again. My sweet baby girl, my Abigail Nainyori. Beloved one.

Today Abigail is strong. She is feisty. She is smart. She is learning more every day.  She has a huge personality and the smile to match it. Her last check up was in February and she was in the 53rd percentile for weight! Up from the -1 percentile this time last year. She prefers to run instead of walking. She loves shoes, especially if they are new (to her). She speaks more Swahili than English, but has bits of Masai mixed in as well. She loves to blow kisses and give hugs. She is full of life and love and joy. 

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When you see what He’s done…

It’s easy for me to get so caught up in the day to day that I forget the big picture.

I see Him in the sunrise, but I forget that He has been there every moment.

I see Him in the little “God winks” of my day, but I forget His enduring faithfulness from the beginning.

I forget how He still performs miracles, every day.

In May of 2016 I wrote a blog called “It would take a miracle” and then never even thought about all the miracles God handed me.

It would take a miracle to finish our house. – We finished, well enough to move in at least.

It would take a miracle to be able to MOVE INTO our house. -Yup, we MOVED INTO our house in September 2016.

It would take a miracle to bring our little boy home. – Little ‘T’ came home via foster care agreement in October 2017

It would take a miracle to bring my family to visit America. – Abigail and I were able to spend two months in America from June-August.

It would take a miracle… Isn’t my God a God of miracles! 

I saw His hands cover my daughter as I handed her off to the surgeons for open heart surgery at 6 months old. I saw His hands cover our vehicle as we drove 30 hours round trip across Tanzania to pick up little T. I see Him as I tuck Abigail and T in every night, in their room, in our house a village built.

How often must we wait to see in retrospect all the things He has done?

How often do I forget He is always faithful.

 

Goodbye to 2017

I’ve been awfully quiet on the blog, for that I apologize. It may seem like maybe not much is going on here, but that is the opposite of the case.

Things with Walk in Love have been busy, albeit mostly behind the scenes. We created our brand new website, http://www.walkinlovetz.org , which took lots of hard work and time (especially with Tanzanian electricity and internet issues) but we are so happy with it. Please spend some time looking around there.

Additionally, the school year in Tanzania runs from January to December. This means our 48 sponsored children finished school the first week of December. We have 12 students starting school next year, as well as 10 students who need to transfer schools, so I have been very busy with school paper work and forms and trying to get everything sorted for that. Walk in Love’s sponsorship program helps at risk children get great educations at private schools in town. Without the assistance of Walk in Love, many of these children would be at risk of being placed in an orphanage, simply because their parents do not have the means to educate them. Having the children in private school also means they receive at least 2 meals a day at school, which is also a huge benefit for these families. As we all know, a child who is continually hungry will struggle to focus on school and their work will suffer as a result. These children are not only receiving a great education, but they are able to focus and enjoy school with full tummies.

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Thirdly, we are just about ready to open the doors for our day care center! Its been a big work in progress as we renovated what was previously the Walk in Love cafe to be the new day care. Our hope is to be full functioning in January, assisting local families who otherwise would have no safe place for their young children to be while they worked (or searched for work).

On a personal note, our little boy (T) has been home with us over 2 months now. We are still in the fostering process and so we are not allowed to post his photo on the internet, but if you are on our email list I hope you got our Christmas card! This has been a huge, but very much wanted, adjustment for our family. To go from a family of 3 to 4 is a big step anyway, but when that addition is a 4 year old boy who has spent almost his whole live in an orphanage setting makes that step grow exponentially. T and Abigail get along so incredibly well and he is so gentle with her. He loves her and is always watching out for her. We couldn’t have asked for a better big brother. He loves going swimming and has quite a few best friends in our neighbors. He has settled in so great you would think he has been with us always.

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Speaking of Abigail, we are working to get another follow up echo cardiogram scheduled. She is now almost 8 months post open heart surgery and so we are a little overdo but she has been having check ups with the pediatrician every 6 weeks or so and seems to be doing great. In the last couple weeks she has gotten so many teeth all at once, her poor little mouth. She is a very confident walker/runner these days and fiercely independent. We are so thankful to live next door to Bibi (grandmother/ my husband’s mom) who takes care of her when I go to work. Abigail’s favorite food is meat, especially on the bone, and she prefers to always feed herself rather than be fed. She is starting to have more recognizable words, though only in Swahili. (We need to work on using more English at home!)

I am excited about the prospects of what 2018 holds. My dear friend and director of Walk in Love put it best in her recent blog. “There is not a question of yes or no when God puts suffering in your path and compassion in your heart. You do the hard thing, even if in the end it might not turn out the way you had hoped…. Why are we continuing in ministry? We continue because God has put suffering in our path and compassion in our heart and all we can do is be obedient to His desire to decrease suffering in our small sphere.”

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I am fully committed, whole heartedly, to the work set before me. To ease suffering. To change the world, even for one person. To help people change the way they see orphan care. To empower women, and families, to stay together.

To do justly.

To love mercy.

To walk humbly.

But I can’t do it without your help. We have been so blessed, we have never gone without. I am not saying we have never been stretched, there have been times where things have gotten uncomfortable for sure. But God has continued to open your hearts and supply for our needs. Over the 4+ years I have been here, needs have grown and shifted. I went from a single person, to a wife, to having a family of four. Costs in Arusha have mostly continued to increase as well.

So what I am trying to say is,

We are looking for supporters- individuals, families, or churches to partner along side our family and support us as we live in Tanzania and work with Walk in Love and families in our community.

Support can come in all shapes and sizes. From one-time donations, to monthly commitments, to quarterly contributions, to yearly gifts, our family would be grateful for them all.

Our monthly needs are currently about 2/3 covered , and we would be so grateful for your partnership in any way. ALL of your gifts are tax deductible through Pillar Missions, my sending agency. Simply designate your donation to “Kelly Mollel”.

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Most of all, we cherish your prayers for our ministry and family. We know our Father, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, can and will abundantly provide for our needs as we continue to work in Tanzania. Join us in praying that God will supply the supporters we need, and that He will provide for our family in the meantime. Pray that God will connect us with the families that need our services the most. Pray for divine intervention for the mamas who feel abandoning their child is the only option. Pray for our adoption to move forward to make T a permanent part of our family. Pray for Abigail’s heart to continue to beat strong and need no further intervention.

We are so thankful for you.

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4 years in Tanzania and what I have learned.

To be honest, most of these 4 years I have lived my life in emergency mode. I had forgotten what it’s like the have peace. I have listened to my Tanzanian friends and neighbors say “Mungu anajua”, God knows, and I have rolled it off my back.

You see, there is always a problem to solve, a sick kid who needed to get to the hospital, a government official who wanted a little “chai money”, a mama who didn’t know if her children would eat that day, a landlord who wanted to raise our rent, a donor who needed an explanation.

They say Africa is not for the faint of heart for a reason.

Lakini, Mungu anajua. But, God knows.
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I hear this phrase constantly. From that same Mama who doesn’t know if her children will eat today? Mungu anajua. The neighbor who knows school fees are due but hasn’t been able to find work in months. Mungu anajua. The parent’s of the sick child who died on the way to the hospital. Mungu anajua. The grieving husband who just lost his wife in childbirth and is left with an infant all on his own? Mungu anajua.

God knows.

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Tanzanian’s are some of the most faith filled people I have ever met. Even when they don’t know, they hold their heads high and say God knows. Mungu anajua. When their stomachs are empty and the sun is high in the sky beating down, they do not give up, they do not surrender. They are not paralyzed with fear and anxiety. They keep going and trust, Mungu anajua. God knows.

These simple little words. Two simple words. Words I have shrugged off and rolled my eyes at. Because they aren’t that simple. They are hard. To say God knows is to admit I don’t. I am not in control. I don’t know what will happen next.  I have been learning to accept it even if I don’t understand. I am learning that I can be content in it because, Mungu anajua. I can find peace because, Mungu anajua.
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Not that I have this all figured out. I think in my four years in Tanzania I am just barely skimming the tip of the iceberg. I am just starting to open my clenched fists and let Him be in control. I am learning to let go. I am entrusting my heart, my family, my work to Him, even if it means not knowing what the future holds because He knows. Mungu anajua. 

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And so a new adventure begins…

In the past few months, before my time in America and during, a lot has happened! Firstly I want to announce that I have come under Pillar Ministries as a missionary! This is huge and fills a void I had been feeling for a long time. Through partnering with Pillar, I now have a wonderful group of people to connect with, be held accountable to, and be encouraged by. In addition to this, all donations to my work in Tanzania are now tax-deductible through Pillar Ministries.

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We are currently very low on monthly support and are living on approximately $350 in monthly commitments, as well as occasional one time gifts. I am also needing some one time gifts to total $600 urgently as we have just received word that my my visa renewal cost has increased and needs to be paid ASAP.  Would you consider signing up to give monthly? Or if you can’t commit to monthly giving, could you make a one time gift? Again, all donations through Pillar Ministries are tax-deductible and you will receive documentation for your tax records. To give head to https://www.pillarmissions.com/missions and click on my name, “Kelly Marie Mollel”.

Times of Transition

Back in May when we traveled for Abigail’s surgery I handed all my tasks over at Neema Village to other people. Everyone stepped up and did such a great job filling my shoes that I have decided to part ways with Neema. I love the children and the staff and they will continue to be part of my life, but with time realized my role was no longer needed. In addition to this, my theology of orphan care is not the same theology I had when I arrived in Tanzania. My heart, desires, and passions have become clearer as this culture has become my home.

I have sat alongside my Tanzanian neighbors and listened to their struggles and joys. I have celebrated new life and mourned with each death. I have 20+ children who live on our family plot of land who call me “Aunty” and to each I have a special relationship with. I have practiced and practiced Swahili until I have reached proficiency so I can better relate to my community around me. I seek to serve and strengthen my local community to the best I can.
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With that said, I am excited to start partnering with a local NGO called Walk In Love. The mission of Walk In Love is to support and strengthen at risk families, and help them stay together. One of the biggest myths is that children in orphanages are there because they have no parents and/or no one wants them. This is not the case. Most are there because their parent(s) simply can’t afford to feed, clothe and educate them. For governments and donors, placing children in institutions is often seen as the most straightforward solution. Walk in Love seeks to partner with Tanzanians to break this cycle and empower families to seek our better solutions. It is the right of every child to grow up in a loving family.

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I hope that this catches you up a bit to some of the goings on. I am excited about this next chapter and hope you will join with our family moving forward.

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When your heart is in two places

Sorry for the lack of updates. We have been in the United States for just over 5 weeks and it has been BUSY. On top of everything, my laptop decided it no longer connects to wireless connections and so my internet options have been limited.
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We were in the St Paul, MN area for the first month or so of our time. I am so blessed and thankful for the Thorson family who graciously hosted us, and continue to be our “home base” while stateside. Also a huge huge huge thank you to Jonny and Breanna who lent us their car for our time. It has made all the difference to be able to travel freely. On July 22 we traveled south to Okoboji, Iowa, where we are staying with for three weeks. We have just started our second week here. It is a joy to be back at the camp that was so instrumental in the beginning of my faith journey. From here we head to New Hampshire for a week where we will see many of my family, then return to Minnesota for just shy of a week before heading home to Tanzania.
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Home to Tanzania. Within the first few days of this trip it was confirmed for me America doesn’t feel like home anymore. Half of my heart is still in Tanzania. My husband and my little boy are still in Tanzania. But to be honest, even if we were all here together it would still feel like some luxurious vacation. America feels so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. I am so thankful we were able to make this trip happen though. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to meet up with us, to share a meal with us, to catch up on life. We look forward to many more meets ups!

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While we are here we are taking the opportunity to stock up on some needs and wants, for myself, for my family, for vulnerable children that have a special place in my life. If you want to help, you can find our wish list at amazon. And if you want to help some special kids this is our current needs list:

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You can also give through the paypal link on this page, or my following this link. 

On Tuesday afternoon…

Abigail and I will land in Minneapolis. It will have been 1,365 days since I was in America. Almost 4 years. I have been living in a developing country in East Africa for almost 4 years…

I know things will be different. I know I will feel different. I will probably be confused about a lot of things. I might wonder where your water filter is and why you are drinking water from the tap. I might freak out that the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. I might even accidently start speaking to you in Swahili instead of English…

Here are a few things on my mind in between trying to get everything done and pack suitcases….

1.) I am not culturally relevant.
  I don’t know what’s cool. I don’t know the newest slang. I don’t know what season Game of Thrones is on, or even really what it’s about. I don’t use snapchat, or know anything about all these filters I see. I don’t know anything about whole 30. What is popular music these days? Macklemore’s thrift shop was where it was at when I left…

2)My clothes are awful
Yup. In addition to not being up with the times, my fashion sense is also…. not with it. My clothes are old. Most I bought at the second hand market in town, which means who even knows when they were in fashion. Many have holes and stains and are stretched from hand washing and line drying. I need to go shopping.

3)We’ve experienced trauma
Abigail had open heart surgery not even two months ago…. In a rural African hospital. I watched as a child died. I’ve shared condolences for countless funerals. I’ve held newborn infants who were left to die. I’ve seen children so malnourished, they can’t even try to eat. I’ve seen and heard things you could never believe still happen today.  I’ve lived in a culture that doesn’t cry in public unless you are mourning a death. I am raw and my emotions live just under the surface. Please don’t be afraid of that.

4)I need more than 5 minutes
When you say, “So tell me about life in Africa”, I have no idea what to say…. I might say, “It’s good!” but really, what does that even mean? I’m hoping more than a few people will say, “Welcome back! Let’s go for coffee and talk!” and we can both listen and share about our lives over the last 4 years.  I am not the same person I was when I left and I am sure you are not either.

5)My ‘Thank You’ isn’t enough
How can I adequately express just how thankful I am for everyone who prays, encourages, and supports us? I’ll bring back a beaded bracelet or some other unique thing from my overseas home and say, “Thank you. I wouldn’t be able to do this without you.”  I am so aware how short words and trinkets will fall. However sincere, my ‘thank you’ isn’t enough, but I still hope you know how much you mean to me.