Dr. Aaron and Stephanie Kelley reflect on the life and death of their daughter, Hannah, who passed away a year ago
A clear call from the Lord to serve overseas as medical missionaries led Dr. Aaron and Stephanie Kelley to move with their four children to Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya, last year.
Aaron, an emergency medicine physician, was accepted into World Medical Mission’s Post-Residency Program and embraced the two-year assignment in Kenya as the first step toward a lifetime of missionary service.
But soon after arriving at Tenwek Hospital, their excitement was tempered by sobering news. Their 1-year-old daughter, Hannah, was sick.
The symptoms mimicked the typical “bugs” that she and her brothers often shared. But it quickly became clear that something else was wrong with Hannah.
An advanced brain tumor was detected and emergency surgery was performed, but the Kelleys suddenly found themselves saying goodbye to their “little princess” when she passed away on March 14 last year.“Hannah survived surgery, but she died the next morning,” Stephanie shared in her Mom on a Mission blog. “After we took her off life support, we coached her through the end. Then, Aaron and I crawled onto her bed with her body. Everyone gathered around to pray, and God—again in His tender love for me—gave me the most beautiful picture of Hannah meeting Jesus.”
Even though they had the sure hope that their little girl was in her “forever home,” the Kelleys were devastated. Hannah’s brothers wanted to know where “Sissy” had gone. Stephanie and Aaron couldn’t understand why God would allow their little girl to die in a mission hospital, 8,000 miles from home.
But they all drew nearer to God and let His love sustain them.
“We’re trying to be faithful in the mission we were called to and not forget that Jesus Christ is bigger than cancer and He has defeated death so that we are going to see Hannah again,” Aaron shared in a tearful video. “It’s really turned out that she’s been the most effective missionary.”
The Kelleys continue to serve at Tenwek Hospital, ministering to the sick, sharing the Gospel, and growing in faith as a family.
One sleepless night when Aaron was on call, he felt himself being pulled out of his comfort zone as a physician to write a children’s story—Visit With The King—about a little girl like Hannah who had been called away from her family to live in “a beautiful country with rolling hills and perfect blue skies.”
The Kelley’s 8-year-old son, Noah, illustrated the story with a series of colorful drawings. He knew that the story was, “Kind of like Sissy’s.”
Aaron posted the story on his blog. He is hoping to have it published so that others can read about Hannah’s life and be drawn closer to Christ.
“I don’t think that we’ve fully seen the impact that Hannah’s story is going to have yet,” Aaron said. “We’ve seen a lot of people who have been drawn to Jesus Christ, which is what our goal was. Whenever we prayed with our boys, we would ask that we would be the best missionaries we could be, and we are very humbled that Hannah’s story and our story is being read and followed by so many people that cannot see us, not see Hannah, necessarily, but see through us the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.”Please pray for the Kelleys—Aaron, Stephanie, and their boys, Noah (8), Jacob (5), and Levi (3)—as they celebrate Hannah’s life and mourn her loss on the one-year anniversary of her death.
“It’s a burden that is lifting as each month goes by, and God continues to love us lavishly,” Stephanie said. “Please pray for us.”
You can follow the Kelleys through Aaron’s blog as they serve in Kenya through the Post-Residency Program