After arriving in Kenya, we took Friday to recover from the long trip/jet lag...and to prepare for a BIG day on Saturday.
Since its conception, Mahali pa Maisha has orchestrated adoptions for over 100 families, and all of those Dave and Jen were able to contact were invited to a Fun Day reunion of sorts (reunion with the Bells, as the adoptive families did not know each other) and an opportunity for the families to connect with each other.
The event was held on Saturday, February 15 at a fairly new amusement park not far from the MpM property, free rides and lunch to all families.
What a great turnout! Nearly half the adoptive families and roughly 170 people turned out for the special day.
For many, it was a rare (if not first!) opportunity to spend the day at an amusement park just playing together.
For Dave and Jen, it was especially heart-warming to see little ones they had rescued thriving and happy!
Although Dave and Jen lovingly remembered each child and the circumstances surrounding their rescue and care, the children were too young to have any memories of their time at Mahali pa Maisha. But the parents remembered and were so grateful, over and over again expressing their appreciation for Dave and Jen's part in helping God create their precious family!
We all pretty much smiled all day long!
So exciting to see this boy thriving and running around like a normal kid...when he was an infant he had severely misformed legs and doctors wondered if he would ever be able to walk. I remember tears running down my cheeks a few years ago as I watched the video of Jesse David taking his first steps...now you'd never know the struggles he and the Bells went through those difficult months.
SO REWARDING to see how God is writing their stories and to have been such a small part of them!
After a morning enjoying the rides, the parents were invited to a sharing session with Dave and Jen.
Bill and Jon helped with registration.
The Bells were caring for 2 new infants, who went with us wherever we went. Shirley took care of little Bilhah most of the day...
...and Kim had charge of Charity.
And I was dubbed Official Fun Day Photographer.
The group session was about how important it is to be honest and open with their children about adoption, letting them know early on in their lives that they are adopted. It seems obvious to us, but with adoption not culturally accepted in Kenya, disclosure is a very big deal and many times adoptions are kept secret. Extended families are often not accepting of adopted children, and some of these parents actually moved to a different area so no one would know their children are adopted.
Both Jen and Dave emphasized that parents must tell their children and make it a natural part of their family story, rather than hide the fact and risk them finding out from another source later in life. They also shared strategies to talk with their children beginning at a young age.
Every family received their own copy of the yellow book (we filled our suitcases with 125 copies that we brought over with us!), and several (since it's out of print and copies are limited) received the second book through the drawing of door prizes after lunch.
Parents were very receptive and when Dave opened the session up to questions and sharing, many parents spoke about their personal struggles as adoptive parents, particularly about acceptance in their villages and extended families. It was a wonderful time of connecting, as parents realized they were not alone in their challenges and received great support and encouragement from each other.
They came together as strangers and left as friends...it was beautiful to see!
Cathy helped with registration, then gave Shirley a break snuggling Bilhah...
After the session, the families were invited to a free meal in the tents...
Barbeque chicken...knowing my sensitive system and not willing to risk bathroom issues for the rest of the day, I did not partake of the meal. As it turned out, I'm very glad I didn't as Jon and Cathy had a violent bout of food poisoning later that night. No one else seemed to be affected, thankfully.
Yep, that's Ethan inside the big bubble!
Jon and Charity...
Following lunch, names were drawn for door prizes...a new concept to many Kenyans.
One of the adoptive parents is also the go-to physical therapist for MpM. He saved a trip to MpM and used this opportunity to fit Charity with leg braces to correct her club feet.
She slept through the whole thing!
Jon, Ethan, Kim, and Bilhah with Flat Stanley, who traveled with Bill and Shirley. Flat will show up in more photos this week...he experienced Kenya with us!
Selah and Ethan conquered the climbing wall!
What an uplifting time for all of us!
We praise God for such a wonderful...