DR Congo’s Orphans With Families

Ben DillowThis morning I woke up to find this little guy’s picture in my inbox. That adorable smile makes you want to smile back at him, but I didn’t. The title of the email made me dread to read the words around the picture. The headline read, “Rest In Peace, Ben Dillow.”

Ben Dillow was a five year old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He wasn’t an orphan. In this picture sent out by Both Ends Burning, Ben is holding a picture of his parents. He was legally adopted with approval by both US and Congolese courts. Everything was ready for him to travel to his new home until the Congolese government stopped issuing exit permits.

Last Saturday, Ben was buried in the DRC because his medically fragile condition could not be sufficiently treated in the DRC.

Over the past few months, 350 legally adopted children have continued to wait, living without their families. The situation has caught the attention of lots of people.

I personally have been trying to “not get involved.” With a crazy busy schedule and concerns within my own family as my mom fights cancer, I didn’t want to get sucked into figuring out another political issue concerning orphans. It seems like situations like this are always messy, complicated, and chock full of heavy emotion.

Getting this email today made me jump online and start doing some preliminary digging. The Congolese government claims to be refusing exit permits because of concerns about the health and well-being of previously adopted children. As I’ve stated before, international Adoption is not without problems (read 3 Problems of International Adoption), but whenever I hear about countries closing to adoptions and listen to the arguments of adoption skeptics, my thoughts return to children like Ben Dillow.

If governments are really concerned about the “health and well-being” of children, what about the children like Ben. The kids who are dying because they’re alone. Because the people who love them–or who would love them–are not allowed to reach them. What about the kids who grow up in orphanages and enter adulthood only to die young and continue the vicious cycle of the fatherless.

International adoption might not be the ideal solution for these kids, but until a better system is put in place, why should they be condemned to lives without the hope of a family?

I still don’t understand the details of the politics and reasons surrounding the suspension of exit permits from the DRC. I might not have the time to look into it further. I do know from past research that many situations like these start with a concept that is intended to help kids “in theory.” But all to often the very children supposed to be helped are harmed.

Want to learn more yourself? Read the details on Both Ends Burning, or read personal stories on Blessings & Raindrops and in the post Why I Called the White House Today.

What was your first reaction when you read about Ben? What are your opinions on the current situation in the DRC? What would you like to see happen next? How do you think teens can get involved in this situation?

In closing, I’d like to share this letter Both Ends Burning sent from Ben’s mom.

To Anyone Who Will Listen:

In memory of our son Benjamin Chase Dillow.

I write this letter imploring, pleading, no, begging that my son’s death not be in vain. Benjamin deserved life, he deserved to be united with his family, but was denied that by the senseless suspension of exit permits. He was one of the many critically fragile children that have families waiting helplessly to bring them home.

Benjamin was critically ill but his doctors in the DRC knew and had stated that his health could be greatly improved with more advanced care offered in the US. His story could have been about the life of a young child that was given a chance, a hope of growing up with his brother and sister, a life of birthday parties, and first loves, graduations, memories with his loving family. But instead Ben’s life ended because the DGM failed to see my son as a life. This orphaned boy was not worth the consideration to give him a chance at life. Benjamin’s death should be a warning to the reality of this suspension.

When I look at the eyes of these other critically ill children, I see sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These children have families that want to give them their home and hearts. We as parents want to hold our children, to comfort them while they are sick. We want to give them the care that they need and deserve, even if it’s only to hold their hand during their last breath. My son passed away on August 4th at Mutumbo Hospital with his care taker by his side.

As my son took his last breaths, he cried for his “Mama”. I cannot tell you the pain of not being by his side; the pain of being helpless to do anything. Please do not let this happen to another child. Give my son’s death meaning! Give these children a chance! Give them life!

Through Tearful Eyes,
Morgan and Grace Dillow

Read the email from Both Ends Burning here.

Leave a comment


  1. RJ Schaus

     /  August 11, 2014

    Wow. Just wow.

  2. Oh, my heart breaks for him and his family…I was aware (due to the Stuck movie trailer) that things like having to wait terribly long times to claim your son or daughter happened, but I really am not very knowledgeable on the subject, so I can’t really give a good opinion on the situation, other than the fact that I think it should change, but I will be looking at the links you posted and trying to learn more. I don’t really know how I think teens should get involved right now, but I definitely will be thinking about it.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Madison. It’s nice to hear that you’re really thinking about it and digging in. One way Christians can get involved for sure is to pray. Both Sides Burning also has a petition that I think you can sign regardless of your age. Those are the first two ideas that come to my mind. Let me know if you come up with any others.

  3. Yes, I just signed the petition, and I will definitely be praying! I plan on trying to talk with my parent’s tonight to help me think about other ways to help. Thank you so much for this site, Leah. I wish I would have found it sooner. 🙂

  4. Leah,
    After chatting briefly with my mom, we both agreed that as teenagers, there is not a lot that we can do in this situation, as hard as that is to admit. But, some things we can do (other than what you have already suggested) would really all be about raising awareness;
    • Those with social media, blogs etc. Let them broad cast it all over! I just started a blog, and hardly anyone is on it, but I still plan on at least posting a link to this page or something along those lines. I bet those who have bigger blogs (Like the Rebelution) would be great influences.
    • Informing the right people in your church, who can put out something in a bulletin or on the church website with a link to a petition or…
    • Maybe even asking someone in your church if you can speak to the congregation about this issue.

    It’s not much, but at least it is something! I hope these ideas are helpful. 🙂

    • All good ideas, Madison! We can also write to the people in our government.

      Always nice to have some help brainstorming!

  5. Hey Leah, I don’t know if this is something you can fix, but whenever I try and add your button to my blog, it says it’s corrupted or something…

    • Madison, I plan on looking into this soon. Hopefully on the weekend. In the meantime you may be able to add the button as a picture and link the picture to the blog. (You can save the image by right clicking on it and selecting “save as”.)

    • Leah, I did what you said and it works, so no worries about the link. 😉

  6. This is so sad!
    But how touching that she called him her son in spite of the fact she never met him.


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