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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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.

One in a hundred

I never would have thought or expected it.  A few hours after Abigail was born and the pediatrician came to examine her I heard the words “heart murmur”. I didn’think any thing of it. Heart murmurs can be a normal thing right? My worries went away when no follow up was scheduled. “She must be fine” I thought. 

Time passed and I talked to some friends. They told me to schedule an appointment with our pediatrician to double check. Sometimes heart murmurs can be a sign of bigger problems. I started to get nervous and set up an appointment. They day came and for sure I was told, yes, that’s a large heart murmur. And then he said “I think she has a hole in her heart.”

We had to go to the other side of the country to see a pediatric cardiologist. There is not a single one in Arusha. We sat in an overcrowded room of people with all sorts of different heart problems and waited for our number to be called. When we finally got in with the Dr and saw and heard Abigail’s heart during her echocardiogram we knew something was wrong. What the Dr said next tore my heart into a thousand pieces.

“She has a large hole and a moderate hole in her heart. There is no way they will be able to heal on their own. Surgery is your only option.”

My heart sank and the tears started leaking out of my eyes. How is this possible? Why my little girl? Why was she the 1 in 100 to be born with these Congenital heart defects. There is no reason or any answers to why her. There is still no known cause for congenital heart defects. 

Abigail is almost 6 months old. She is barely 11 lbs. Because of these holes in her heart, her heart is constantly in overdrive making it very hard to gain weight. It’s like she’s running a marathon all the time. Since our appointment in January she has been on diuretics to help prevent heart failure. She gets tired when nursing and so it’s hard for her to even get full. She still needs to nurse every 2 hours to be satisfied.

I have spent hours and hours researching where we could have surgery. It’s not an easy thing here in East Africa. We have found a mission hospital outside of Nairobi Kenya through a friend. They have an American surgeon team coming the first week of May and have already put Abigail on the schedule. The only thing standing in the way of our daughter having this life saving surgery is $3500.

The place where I have volunteered during my three and a half years here in Tanzania, has offered to help fundraise with us. Please message me or email me at g.kellymarie@gmail.com for a way to donate that is tax deductible. If you don’t care about that, feel free to donate at http://www.paypal.me/abigailsheart

Thank you for your prayers and support to save Abigail’s life.

Abigail Nainyori Dickson Mollel

img_7121I’ve always believed names carry strong significance. Naming a child should be no easy task, and we thought long and hard about the name for our child. I wanted to share what we are speaking over her life when we say her name.

img_7104Abigail – “Joy of the Father” or “Cause of joy”
Scripture References1 Samuel 25:1-42; 2 Samuel 3:3
Abigail is as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In her, winsomeness and wisdom were wed. In her, loveliness and intelligence went hand in hand. Her own soul, like that of David, was “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord God.”

Nainyori –  This name comes from the language of Maasai (KiMaa) and was given to her by her grandmother. Nainyori means beloved one, one who is dearly loved and loves greatly. Her essence is love, and from her comes loves.

img_7114Dickson – In Tanzanian culture, all children are given their father’s name as their middle name.14671098_10153773772941567_3953655848242299353_n

Mollel – Our family name. One of the most common surnames in Northern Tanzania, as part of the Maasai tribe. img_7345

The House a Village Built

The days kept passing and my frustrations continued to grow. I asked God “why” over and over. How much longer would we live in our single room. How much longer would I trek back and forth to the outhouse. How much longer would I have to cook three steps away from my bed?

I know I will look back on the first 6 months of our marriage crammed into that tiny room as a strengthening exercise. And truly, I feel I learned more about Tanzanian culture and life in that time that any other time here. I truly lived like my neighbors live, though often whole families, inside one single room.

But this past Sunday I finally let out a sigh of relief. We could move into “the house a village built”.

I am so thankful for every single one of you who helped us get to this point. They say the easiest part of building in Tanzania is getting the walls up and I found that to be true. The material for the walls is so cheap. It’s the “finishing” that eats up your money and takes the longest! We are not completely finished, but we can sleep easy knowing this is OUR home and we are excited to grow our family here.

Here are a few pictures, excuse the slight mess!

In the future we plan to add plastic carpet to the rest of the rooms, not just the sitting rooms, as the cement is very cold! We will add tiles on the walls in the bathroom (hence the “half paint”) and add a shower and the flush mechanism to the toilet once we can get a water storage tank. We will build some shelves/cabinets in the kitchen. Also we have no interior doors (hence the curtains!) I did not take pictures of the two bedrooms because they are still getting organized but I will later!

Because people have asked, these additional projects we still have to finish will cost as follows: Carpet -$200, Tiles – $90, Doors – $180, Shower/Flush – $30, Water storage tank – $450, Cabinets- $150. These are in no way urgent needs and all in all we are SO happy to be moved into our house.

Karibuni sana (you are very welcome) to visit!

A letter to my Unborn child

Dear Baby Mollel,il_214x170-927607008_3iy3-copyNot much longer til we get to meet you now. I mean, I hope you stay put until you’re good and ready to come out, but we are so excited to meet you. As you grow bigger and stronger I feel you more and more, wiggling all around in there. I’ll admit it took me awhile in the beginning to figure out if it really was you moving. Sure enough, you made yourself known.

You know, never in a million years did I think this is how it would go. I never expected to fall in love in Tanzania. Trust me, I am so glad I met your Baba, and God knew what he was doing bringing me here but we have and we will continue to face many challenges. Some people think I’m crazy to give birth to you here in Tanzania. But this is my home, this is your home. This is our home.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what your life will be like. Will you prefer English or Swahili? Will you identify as a “Mzungu” or “Mswahili”? Or both? Will you long for America even before you know where it is? Or will you be content here in Tanzania? Will you have your Baba’s big nose? His deep, dark brown eyes? Will you be born bald like I was?

We aren’t nearly as ready as I hoped we would be. Being a “type A” person has got my stomach in knots thinking of all the things I haven’t been able to do. We haven’t  even been able to move into our house yet and the thought of bringing you into this world while still living out of this single room sends my heart into a panic. I also prayed and wished your big brother would be home with us first. We continue to pray that it won’t be too much longer for him.

You are so loved. I’m sorry I haven’t taken much time to document your growth thus far. I feel like I’ve been in shock through most of this pregnancy, but you ARE real and you will be here SOON! Despite all the chaos around us, when I sit still and feel you move I am filled with peace. As I sort through your little clothes and teeny tiny shoes my heart is overwhelmed. I love you so much.

Your Baba is excited too. He’s always talking to you and dreaming about your arrival. In a lot of ways he’s probably more prepared than me! He’s always so calm and collected about things but he’s so excited about your arrival. He’s ready to be “Baba “insert your name here”, and he wants the world to know it.

We are waiting for you but please, no hurry.

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