The Wells Family, from left: Melia, 5, Becca, Kylie, 3, and Josh. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

Of the Keizertimes

A Keizer couple will be running for more than their health at this year’s Iris Festival.

Josh and Becca Wells are entering the Iris Festival Half-Marathon to raise awareness first, funds second for their Rwandan adoption and to boost an organization called Africa New Life Ministries.

The plight of many Rwandan children is staggering: Eleven million people live in the central African nation about the size of Maryland. Of those about a million are children who are orphaned, live on the streets, or are otherwise considered vulnerable, according to UNICEF.

The problem seems nearly insurmountable, but the Wells family wants to make all the difference in the world for at least one child they plan to bring home. They also want to help African New Life, which among other projects has a “Dream Center” that offers food, church services, bathing facilities and worship to children forced to beg or actually live in the streets of Kigali, the nation’s capital.

“It seems so overwhelming, big, hard and sad,” Becca Wells said. “We want to encourage people to dream big and show them big things are possible.”
Becca’s sister adopted a young girl from China; a desire her sister had since she volunteered at a Chinese orphanage in high school.  Josh and Becca have two biological daughters: Melia, 5, and Kylie, 3.

“It was a seed being planted, now that I look back,” Becca said. “I’d say it was kind of a calling that God really developed over time, patiently, persistently we felt this was a calling in our family.”

And for reasons they can only attribute to God’s voice, “we both separately and together had a peace about where,” Becca said. “And it wasn’t here. It was Africa – straight out. There was no question. All I can say is it was a deep peace, like that’s where our child is.”

Adoption is expensive no matter where the child is from, and it takes quite a while to adopt from overseas. The Wells family initially thought it would be a six-to-eight month process; that was more than a year ago. In addition, both parents must appear in Rwandan court, meaning at least one parent will have to go to Kigali twice. They thought their representative in Rwanda would be able to handle the initial court appearance. Either Josh or Becca will have to return for an appointment with U.S. State Department officials in Africa.

Not only do Rwandan officials want to know about the prospective parents, but they’re also investigating to make sure there aren’t family members in Rwanda who would take the child, or that there isn’t someone in-country waiting to adopt.

“The thing about adoption is you have absolutely no control,” Becca said. “When you’re dealing with a foreign government, you do what they say and wait when they tell you to wait.”

Rwandan authorities insist on all kinds of background info: Any criminal past, health history, places they used to live, an extensive study of the prospective home where the child will live, financial fitness.

And even though Africa is probably the cheapest foreign continent to adopt from, the family expects their costs to be at least $20,000; likely more.

“It makes a bar you have to meet,” Josh said, with Becca noting agencies create a smoother process for prospective parents and look out for the child’s safety.

Family and friends have pitched in: Their middle school-aged niece asked for nothing but cash for her birthday, then donated it all to Aunt Becca and Uncle Josh.

They’re calling their mission Change 4 Rwanda, and are running in the Iris half-marathon this year. Family and friends are collecting change in jars to sponsor their adoption, and 10 percent of proceeds will go towards Africa New Life Ministries.

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