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.
545799_10150644891771567_819429460_n

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.

canva-photo-editor

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.
210183

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. 

f209db0f1ac2d445a72b8f1ce9efb93b--make-time-let-god

Advertisements

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.

6a00d8357c6b5b69e200e554e776538833-500wi

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.
21616534_10154658884796567_589513012909327959_n

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.

IMG_4593

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.

2cd20eb3ef38730ab7ea93812eb08d23

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.
20155669_10154494064291567_2524891999279511155_n

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.
19748699_10154463141276567_928185656434898095_n

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!

19642515_10154456680361567_8082750760635190318_n

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:

20429777_10154536692696567_868430608396199917_n

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.

To Mend a Broken Heart

[[If you are on my email list, you have already read this]]

Tuesday afternoon we were admitted at Tenwek Mission Hospital, where Abigail’s surgery was to take place. There was a medical team mostly from Maine Medical Center in place to provide utmost care. The waiting began.
18301982_10154282309656567_7845067636097227812_n
I handed Abigail over to the team at 5pm on Wednesday the 3rd of May. My eyes instantly welled with tears. The next 4 hours were the longest 4 hours I’ve ever experienced. At exactly 9pm the head Surgeon, Dr. White, came and found us in the pediatric ward. “Everything went perfect,” he said, “they are finishing up and will be moving her to the recovery room and then you can go see her”. We waited and waited some more and then I got impatient and went up to the recovery room around 9:40pm.18198758_10154284011021567_4279908786265358608_n

 

They were just about to call me anyway, so I had good timing. It was hard to see her, but at the same time I felt so much relief.  That night I stayed by her bed until 2 am, when the nurses made up a bed for me in the emergency receiving area so I could rest a bit and promised to wake me up if anything changed. Regardless I was up at 5 am and back at her bedside. That morning she drank almost 5 ounce of formula and it was like I had a different baby. Previously she would never take more than 3 ounces in a setting because she got too tired.

18274863_10154284755966567_5747424192566805730_n

18221585_10154286387396567_2607254800345547281_nWe stayed in recovery (post-anesthesia care unit) until Friday morning, where we were moved to HDU (high dependency unit) where they can closely monitor post op patients. We moved from HDU back to the pediatric ward on Saturday afternoon. We were then discharged Monday afternoon! Abigail passed through post-op with flying colors and all the Drs were very impressed with her recovery. She continues to do very well and in 6-8 weeks she should be able to do everything a baby her age would do. She is already sitting with much more strength and endurance than pre-op and is taking her bottles like a champ. She turned 7 month old on the 6th while we were in the hospital.
18274727_10154292417076567_8976454681171171256_n

18342182_10154294334921567_2712654691649750881_n
There is something that brings you together with strangers when your child is sick. We made bonds with 5 other families whose children were having similar surgeries. The families of baby Fiona, Faith, Matthew, Joseph and Chara. I believe 11 surgeries were done in the 5 days the team had to do them. Abigail was by far the youngest and smallest of them. We shared stories with these 5 other families. We checked on each others children. We laughed, we cried, we worried, we prayed. Unfortunately less than 24 hours post operation, baby Fiona passed away. She was 2 years and 4 months old and weighed a mere 12 pounds. She was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot and suspected to have DiGeorges syndrome. If she had lived in a western country she would have had surgery shortly after birth, and I am sure her life would have looked very different. Instead I watched as the team worked for almost an hour to revive her, doing everything they could possibly do. I heard her mother’s shrieking cries in the hallway when they told her, I watched as they carried her lifeless body out in a cardboard box. The harsh truth of being born in Africa. Please pray for baby Fiona’s family as they grieve. And please pray for these other families as their children recover.

The time has come

[cross posted-everywhere]

Fullscreen capture 522017 105859 AM

We got the phone call from the hospital. We need to go in after lunch today to be admitted and Abigail will be having open heart surgery tomorrow! (That is as long as the children prior to her stay on schedule). When we met with the Dr team Saturday evening we received a mix of good and bad news. The good, her ASD (the smaller of the two holes) has been closing on its own and is no longer an issue. The bad news is the larger hole, VSD, is much larger than expected. She is also in heart failure which pushed us up near the top of the list for operations. This is common in children with defects like hers, and should be completely reversed with the operation. The head surgeon assured us it should be a straight forward closure, which brings some relief. But this is still our itty bitty baby girl going into major surgery. Please please please pray. Will update if they tell us a set time, though I won’t have my laptop it will probably be through FB/instagram.

http://www.instagram.com/kellymarietz
http://www.facebook.com/kellymariemollel

The constant battle

I’ve been going back and forth on if I wanted to write anything before we go to the hospital. If you are on facebook or Instagram you’ve seen what we’ve been up to. Seeing the giraffe’s and the elephant orphanage. Eating our way around Nairobi. I had set up those few days in Nairobi to try and distract myself from what was coming. Though I could still feel it. In the fun and excitement of Nairobi something loomed over me. It sat on my shoulders and weighed me down. It casted a shadow over my head. It slipped in through all the cracks.

Fullscreen capture 4282017 32346 PM
Abigail at 6 weeks and 29 weeks. Same shirt. Sized 0-3 months

It’s fear.

I’m afraid. I’m terrified to be honest. Why is it my baby girl? Why was she born with this condition? Why do I have to place her in the hands of a surgeon at a mere 6 months old. She’s not even 12 lbs yet. She’s still so tiny and fragile.

Though we were told upon her birth she had a heart murmur, I didn’t think twice about it. They didn’t recommend anything else, they didn’t set a follow up.

She had symptoms from the start; we just didn’t quite know what we were looking at. The symptoms are so subtle for her type of defect: constant feeding; falling asleep quickly when eating, but not staying asleep very long before needing to eat again; sweating while feeding; fast breathing; trouble growing and gaining weight. It was so easy to explain these things away, which is what I did. Breastfed babies eat frequently, so intervals between feedings don’t matter. Some babies are not sleepers. I’m so hot all the time so she’s probably just sweating from me. Babies breathe faster than big people. It was all so dangerously easy to explain away. CHDs can be subtle and insidious, even when your baby’s heart is literally failing. We were incredibly lucky that the delay in diagnosis didn’t cost her her life.

Even when we finally received her possible diagnosis, at just over two months, I didn’t yet start to worry. But that day in the cardiologist’s office in Dar es Salaam, when I heard the words, “your daughter will need surgery”, my world collapsed. Every moment of every day I worry. I know I shouldn’t, please don’t write to me and say things like “Don’t worry, God’s in control.” I know that He is. And trust me, I am trying to surrender everything to Him. But if He decided to take my daughter home, how would I handle that? I can’t even begin to think without tears.

We meet with the Dr(s) tomorrow. From there they will give us a surgery date (within the week). I will update when I can.

In the meantime, even if you are not on facebook or instagram, you can follow us on http://www.instagram.com/kellymarietz without an account.