An October Update: Arwen and Fundraising

It's been three months since baby Kalmar was born, and the family is finding a routine again as we head into the new (home)school year. Kalmar has been a happy baby and a blessing to the family. Because his arrival was in July, many summer activities were delayed due to pregnancy, expectation for delivery, and recovery. Our family did find time to enjoy some of the lingering summer days in Michigan with a mini vacation on Mackinac Island and then a brief camping trip in Northern Michigan.

As we have returned to some normal routine, we are focusing more closely on our fundraising efforts for our eventual return to Togo. Currently, our monthly support income is at 17% of our goal, and we are seeking brothers and sisters in Christ who would partner with us by giving monthly on a long-term basis. We invite you to consider joining our ministry in this way!

Touring the colorful interior of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

As you may know, Arwen was on an experimental treatment for several months to see if that might have any effect on her cancer. Ultimately, it proved ineffective and Arwen was switched to another study. However, the new study program did not turn out to be taking new patients, so Arwen was left without any treatment. She has been on a "maintenance" medication while her doctors look for another experimental treatment that she might try.

Overall, Arwen has been fairly well, though tired often and prone to joint and body pain due to the maintenance medication. She, like the rest of the family, has continued to grow in her walk with the Lord. In fact, Arwen, Caspian, and Elora were all baptized in early September! We were able to celebrate that with our church family in Hillsdale, Michigan.

In mid-September we had the opportunity to share our testimony in a breakout session at Prescription for Renewal in Orlando. We thank all those who ministered to us there and those who expressed interest in possibly supporting our ministry. Later in September, we were able to share again at Grace Covenant Church in Cincinnati. We are thankful to the church for the chance to fellowship and for their tender encouragement and support for our family. If you wish to see that sermon, you can watch it here.

We hope to share our testimony and plans for ministry with more churches or groups. If you would like us to speak at your church, feel free to introduce us to your pastor! We're also happy to attend small groups or mission conferences.

Another request that we have is for some of you to consider joining our prayer support team. All of your prayers are welcome and appreciated! Yet, we plan to have a core group of believers who are dedicated to praying for our family and ministry on a daily basis. This group would receive more specific prayer requests more often. If you are interested in supporting us in this way, or if you want more information about having us come to speak at a church or group, simply email us at

Baptism of Arwen, Caspian, and Elora
And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9

Missionary Doctor: As We Move Forward

Dear friends and prayer partners,
We hope that as you read this you are well and growing in the grace so freely offered by God through Jesus Christ. For some of you, this may be the first time you’ve heard about our ministry, but many of you are rather familiar with our story and our ministry, so some of this blog’s contents may already be quite well-known to you.
We are the Mallay family, missionaries to Togo, West Africa. I, Seth, am a medical doctor who was called to medical missions as a child. My wife, Rebecca, was raised on the mission field and also felt called to missions as a child. We have six children under the age of thirteen, one of whom was born in Africa. A few years ago, we were commissioned by Samaritan’s Purse to work as missionaries at a hospital in Togo for two years. At the end of 2015, we began our missionary assignment by moving to France for language acquisition. After a year of study there, we relocated at the end of 2016 to the small village of Tsiko, Togo, where we lived and worked in medical ministry for over a year.
We certainly saw fruit from our labors, both physical and spiritual. As we were preparing to announce our decision to return to Togo as full-time missionaries after completing our two years, we discovered a tumor in the abdomen of our oldest child, our daughter Arwen. This required a hasty retreat to the U.S., where Arwen was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. Since January of 2018, we’ve been living in Michigan and going through various steps of treatment in hopes of curing her cancer.
Ultimately, Arwen’s cancer did not respond to any form of standard treatment. She is currently undergoing an experimental treatment, which has also failed to show any sign of effect so far. Despite this, we have continued to place our hope in Christ and to trust in God’s perfect plan. Trusting also in God’s timing, our ministry in Togo has been necessarily deferred. However, in March of 2019, Rebecca and I were officially appointed as missionaries to Togo with the mission ABWE.
Some have asked us why we changed missions from Samaritan’s Purse to ABWE. The answer, at its simplest, is that this change was always part of the plan. Samaritan’s Purse places doctors in various mission hospitals for two-year periods with the desire that those doctors will later continue working in those hospitals as missionaries for the various mission boards that run the hospitals. ABWE, Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, is the mission that owns and operates the hospital in Togo.
Others have asked why we would go with a Baptist organization even though we aren’t actually Baptists. Our sending church is the Hillsdale United Brethren Church, in Hillsdale Michigan. Many of the missionaries working with ABWE are Baptists, but many of them are not. The organization is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ who have the common desire to see Christ shared with every nation. Our own denomination has a strong tradition of unity between all those who are brethren in Christ. If you are interested in reading more about ABWE, you can visit their website.
We are excited to be working with ABWE and eager to return to the work in Togo. The passion for missions that God has given us hasn’t changed. There have been some major life detours, but that has not discouraged us from desiring to be obedient in carrying out the task that has been accorded to us.
There are several matters to be undertaken before we will be free to return to Togo. First, concerning Arwen’s health: We continue to pray for a miracle, but we do not know what God has in store for us. If treatments begin to show signs that they are working, we would likely remain in the U.S. until Arwen was in remission and not in need of frequent check-ups. If treatments continue to fail, any additional treatment decisions are left to Arwen because it’s all experimental at this point. Based on what Arwen has told us, this experimental treatment may be the last. This could change depending on what is presented to her in the future, but most recently she tends to lean toward no further treatment. She has indicated that if treatment is discontinued, her desire would be to return to Togo for whatever remaining time God gives her on this earth, and if she were to die, she would like to be buried in Togo. That last sentence was not easy to write.
The other barriers to returning include various classes and learning objectives given to us by ABWE, which shouldn’t be too difficult, and meeting our fundraising requirements. ABWE has given us two financial bars that we need to reach. First, in order to address all initial costs, they require that we raise enough to move overseas, so this goes towards things like initial airfare, a vehicle, and additional language study. The second goal is for us to have a consistent monthly support to cover costs of living, insurance, saving for future travel, supporting the hospital, and various ministry expenses.
While we begin our “pre-field” ministry here in the U.S., we will be interested in meeting with many of you to talk about whether you might partner with us in our ministry. If God has already laid it on your heart to give to our ministry, click the link below to give through the online portal. 
We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we wish to walk in faith and obedience to God. We are excited to see disciples made in Togo and West Africa and to see new, healthy churches rise up and send missionaries of their own. It is thrilling to see how God is using the ministries in Togo, and we are ready to labor where “the laborers are few.” (Matt. 9:37)
Seth, Becca, Arwen, Caspian, Elora, Gwynevere, Irene, and (soon) Kalmar
To give towards our mission fund: click here
To visit our website: click here

Life is Good on this Journey

Is it wrong to desire what you know to be good? Isn’t life precious and good? Is that not what we are to cherish, respect, and fight for?

For several weeks now we’ve been quietly praying a familiar prayer. We’re asking God to heal Arwen of her cancer and restore her eleven-year-old body to health. Yet our prayers somehow feel more cautious than before, as if we find ourselves holding our breath: daring to hope…fearing doubt. Arwen has had two cycles of her experimental treatment now. Certainly, she’s been through a lot of treatments over the past year and a half. She’s had dozens of CT scans, MIBG scans, MRIs, bone marrow biopsies, not to mention hundreds of pokes and labs. This week, she had all those scans again, but this is the first series of test after starting this new treatment. With all those previous treatments and scans and tests, we’ve not ever had good news. Nothing had worked. We were out of options. Now we’re checking to see, for the first time, if this untested therapy might prove effective when all else has failed.

We know what we want from God in this situation. We want a good thing to happen. Our hearts ache to receive good news. We’re asking for health and healing and life for our daughter. These aren’t wrong desires. Matthew 7:11 describes God as a father who gives good things to His children. We believe it’s true. Yet this truth is not in contradiction to the rest of God’s truth. I personally have momentary lapses in my prayers where I’m tempted to tell God that my worship for him will be profound if he would grant me my wish or that he would surely be glorified by so many if he would display His power in the way that I see fit. Oh, but who are we to bargain with God? Before his death, Jesus prayed making known to the Father his fervent request, but he also took on the attitude of obedience and surrender, “not my will but yours be done.” We must not presume to elevate ourselves above the humble posture of obedience that Christ so perfectly modeled. We must lay our will down upon the alter of sacrifice while still worshiping the Lord with our whole selves. He will be glorified, and he will accomplish his glorification according to his own wisdom. Whatever may come, we prostrate ourselves before God in humble worship and thanksgiving.

Life is precious. Life is good and worth preserving and fighting for and praying for. The reason life is precious and good is because it is God who created life and he who gave it to us. He has given us all good things and we have no claim upon anything without His sanction. We lay our mortal lives down at his feet along with our desires - His will to be done.

Here we wait. With resolve, we present our need to God, surrendering our will to him in obedience. Trusting him and his perfect wisdom, we praise and worship him no matter the outcome of any circumstance. We choose to joyfully thank him in all things, and we wait. We wait for test results, but more than that, we wait expectantly to see how God will be glorified - he will be glorified. Praise God that he has willed to give us life abundantly. God is good.

To give to our mission fund:
Visit our website:

Arwen's Journey and Medical Missions

Hello dear friends,

Thank you for being patient with us between updates. We've had a few busy months, but we do have some news for you. First, Arwen was able to fulfill her Make-a-Wish with a family vacation to Orlando to visit several theme parks including all of the Disney parks, Universal Studios, and Legoland. Especially for the children, this was a great family getaway full of fun memory making moments (the adults might have elected to spend more time sipping cool drinks in the shade). Because of Arwen's "wish kid" designation, she and her siblings were allowed to move to the front of most ride and character lines. In one of the photos below, you can see Arwen holding the hand of Pixar character Joy as we stand between Joy and Sadness. That describes life to some extent, standing between joy and sadness, but Joy will win in the end – of that we are sure. “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The whole trip really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we will look back on fondly.

Click Image
Regarding Arwen’s health, it is likely evident to you in the above photos that Arwen broke her leg shortly before her wish trip (distal tib/fib). That was a result of a roller-skating fall, of all things. We were fortunately still able to have and fully enjoy the whole wish experience. Thank you to those who prayed specifically for that.
Overall, Arwen continues to feel pretty well and act normally. She's growing, learning, and maturing. Of course, her cancer is still not cured after exhausting all treatment options. During this last week of March, Arwen has been undergoing an experimental type of immunotherapy which incorporates the reintroduction of her own natural killer cells. It has been painful and uncomfortable for her. Pray with us that these treatments will be fruitful - we continue to trust God as we make known our request for Arwen's healing. He is faithful, and we can give witness to His gracious love and faithfulness.

Regarding our mission work, it is now official: Rebecca and I attended ABWE's new missionary orientation, and on March 22 were appointed as new ABWE missionaries to Togo! We are thrilled to be a part of an organization focused on evangelism and growing the church worldwide. We felt very warmly welcomed into the ABWE family and look forward to working with them from this point on. We are also excited to begin our “pre-field” ministry. This involves a year or two of training, fund-raising, and getting to know you all a bit better.

That’s where we’re going to need you! Over the next one to two years, we will want to connect with people who are willing to partner with us and financially support our ministry. One-time gifts will be necessary, but we'll also need people able to support us on a monthly basis. For those who have continued to support us through Samaritan’s Purse, thank you! We will ask that you switch your monthly giving to be processed by ABWE. For others who are interested, please consider joining with us to grow the church in West Africa through our health care ministry. Look out for future blog posts describing some of our hopes for ministry in Togo.

To start giving toward our ministry with ABWE, follow this link.

Thank you all for continuing to pray with us during these past few years and especially concerning Arwen’s neuroblastoma. We can’t know what the future holds, but we do trust the Lord. We know that if it is His will, He can heal Arwen. Until we know otherwise, that is exactly what we expect. It is Arwen’s desire, as well as our family’s desire, to return to our home in Togo as soon as the Lord allows. Even though we are running out of treatment options, "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). Our greatest hope is that the Lord would be glorified, and this is not a hollow hope, because we know that He will be glorified (Hab 2:14). May our hearts be continually bent toward our God and our minds renewed by His word.

Remember to pray for Arwen's health and restoration. Pray for few symptoms with her current experimental treatment (and that God would use it for her healing, if that is His will).
Pray for baby number six (baby K) who is due on June 27th.
Pray for wisdom for us as we start moving back towards missions while we continue to fight for Arwen.  Pray for financial support to come, in God’s timing.
Pray for a good family vehicle as we set out on pre-field ministry (we’re looking at the Ford Transit 350) and possibly a stateside house (it’s still unclear to us if this is the right choice for us).
Above all, pray that God would be magnified in all we do.

Arwen's Journey: Rise and Stand Upright

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
But we rise and stand upright.
     -Psalm 20:6-8

     If we had placed our trust in medicine, we would be devastated. The reports from all of Arwen’s recent scans and studies have come back. Interestingly, these scans show some decrease in the amount of cancer in Arwen’s bones for the first time since her initial diagnosis of Neuroblastoma one year ago. No other treatment has proven even remotely as effective. While this seems like good news, there was not enough decrease of disease to consider the treatment successful. The goal was for a majority of cancer to be killed in order that we might progress to the next stage of standard treatment. That is not the case.

     The options we are given at this juncture are for an experimental treatment or for palliative care. Although this is dismaying, it is not entirely unexpected. We have continued to trust God to work in our lives according to His will. We understand that although we desire Arwen’s recovery and restoration, God may choose to bring fame to His holy name in a way that we would not naturally choose. How wonderful would it be to see Arwen’s healing when there was no way to attribute her healing to medicine! We will not cease to pray for a miracle. Yet, how magnificent also is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to prove the power of Christ – especially when we are put to trial.

     Even if all medical treatments worked perfectly, those whose hope was solely in man’s inventions would collapse and fall. Those of us who place our trust in God, and in His perfect Prince of Peace, can only rise and stand upright – even in death. We have, as you all are our witnesses, continued to see the hand of God at work in our lives through all of this ordeal. He has provided for our needs, given us grace for each day and each trial, and given us so much opportunity to share Him with others. Bless His holy name! How rich is His mercy toward us and how gracious His tender love in our lives. We can only begin to fathom the significance of being made to rise and to stand upright. May the powers in the heavenly places see what He has done and worship Him. Even as we see His hand in our lives, we eagerly await the day when we might look upon His face, passing away from all these troubles of the world. Nevertheless, we will continue to wait on Him here with what strength He has given us as we seek to be servants who are faithful and full of love, peace, and joy.

     Pray with us for direction, and please continue to seek the Lord for a miracle. May His perfect will be done in the lives of His imperfect servants so that His perfect name would be shown to an imperfect world. Thanks again to all of you who have so lovingly supported us through this and all those who have so faithfully prayed. There is, as always more work to be done, and this fight, like so many others, is not yet over.

Arwen’s Journey: Thanksgiving

Many have been asking how Arwen is doing. Well, she’s an eleven-year-old girl who has undergone multiple, unsuccessful treatments for stage four neuroblastoma, so she shouldn’t be doing great. Yet, generally, she has been pretty well in terms of her general health and mood. She is closer to her family and the Lord than she has ever been and has recently been exercising the sense of humor that she inherited from her dad. She has recovered well from a surgery to her spine about five or six weeks ago. Her schooling (and that of the other children) has been often interrupted on a universal scale for far too many trips to the hospital over the past month or so – it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive, after all.
We have tried to keep up with homeschooling and have even joined a homeschool group to maintain some semblance of normalcy. It’s the regular interruption of “hospital trips” and Arwen’s periodic pain that remind us that this isn’t “normal life” and that we didn’t intend to be here or to live like this right now. I have been accepted in a part-time family medicine position. The paperwork process for that takes months, so I won’t start work until sometime next year, but we are thankful that God is providing a flexible job. In the meantime, I have been taking some theology courses online while Rebecca and I continue to work on our applications with the mission agency. Often, due to hospital stays, our family is spread out more than we are accustomed to. When we are all together, we continue to maintain our family devotions and discipleship.

There certainly are some rough days, emotionally speaking: moments where a couple of us will cry together. We are sometimes tempted to give in to fear or to the pride of believing that our own will should be done, but God patiently and tenderly shows us our need for Him and then gives us Christ’s own power to abandon ourselves in favor of trusting Him. I can honestly say that most of the time, we are joyful – recognizing that God is growing us and building us as witnesses of His wondrous grace.

We continue to miss our home and mission in Togo – praying that God might restore us to our work there – restore Arwen to her health. Rebecca and I were able to attend the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville last week. We went in order to speak with others who are thinking and praying about medical mission work. We met several individuals and couples who encouraged us with their hearts for seeing Christ lifted up in Africa. An added blessing for us was that we had opportunity to visit with several of our dear friends from Togo. We were refreshed by fellowship with them.
After returning home to rest for a couple days, I will be taking Arwen down to the hospital tomorrow for a new treatment. She will be receiving high doses of targeted radiation. Essentially, the treatment is a chemical that recognizes Arwen’s type of cancer and targets those cells. It has been combined with a radioactive agent which is meant to kill the cancer cells after being absorbed by them. Her oncologists have told us that this is their last hope for Arwen (though we have a much, much deeper hope than they). Most likely, Arwen and I will spend the rest of this week in the hospital, come home for Thanksgiving week, and then return to the hospital to have stem cells infused until she is well enough to come home again. This treatment works half of the time.

We’ve been told by several people that Arwen’s faith and our family’s faith have been encouraging to many of you. We are heartened to hear that! If you haven’t read Arwen’s own account of this situation, I recommend that you take the time. You can find the article (written in July) here. I found myself envisioning Arwen being approached by someone someday in eternity to say that Arwen’s testimony of faith had been used by God to bring them to salvation. I was instantly struck by the selfish thought that it was unfair for God to put my daughter and my family in such tribulation to help others that I may not even know. She’s my daughter, I thought, but the rebuke came almost as immediately. Arwen belongs to the Lord. She’s given herself to Him, and she – like all creation – would belong to Him even if she hadn’t already given herself willingly. Of course, I repented, but such small moments are the essence of spiritual battle and the basis of all our attitudes to follow. Once again, I dedicate myself and my family to God, His will, and His glory. Rebecca went through something similar a few weeks ago. She was convicted that she did not have a heart of thanksgiving. She got on her knees and, through tears, thanked God for this very situation in which we find ourselves. This is a progression of refinement in our lives right now. There was dross in our hearts and lives that we could not have known was there save for this process of refinement. Yet, we are encouraged that what is left is a finer, purer gold: hearts made holy in the sight of God by the power of Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…

God has graced us with the expectation of a sixth child. Please pray for Rebecca. She was already struggling with her own health a while ago and we haven’t yet found the time (or more honestly, the energy) to see to anybody’s health other than Arwen’s. We are, however, joyful in this news and look forward to introducing the newest Mallay in June or July.

Pray also for our endurance. The battle at hand is no less difficult than when we first returned from Togo and learned of Arwen’s diagnosis, and small reprieve lends itself to weariness. Our confidence remains entirely in Christ, the first-born from the dead, and we renew our minds in the truth of God’s word. Thank you for your continued prayers, notes of encouragement, and financial help.

You can continue to pray for the ministry in Togo. The hospital is still in a place of need regarding medical staff, but we anticipate that God has marvelous plans for Togo. We pray that He would raise up those for whom He has prepared this work and that He would make Himself know in Togo.

Pray most of all that we, God’s church, would be unified in Christ, that our hearts would be full of thanksgiving, and that we would be able count every trial as joy.

Arwen's Journey: Next Steps

“I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.”
     Acts 13:22

David’s life and deeds are worth pondering. I’ve been reading through 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles over the past few weeks. In the 12th chapter of 2 Samuel, David was about to lose his and Bathsheba’s first child, stricken ill as a consequence for David’s own sin. David was in absolute anguish. He spent seven days on the ground without food as he prayed to the Lord for his son’s deliverance. The baby died.

It’s rather a discouraging story on its face. I honestly can’t think of a loss greater than the early death of one’s own child. I’ve seen that sorrow firsthand. I was about five years old when I watched my own parents as well as my grandparents each suffer the loss of a child. I also think back on the Togolese mother who lost her baby in childbirth last Christmas. This is one of many examples, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget the contortion of absolute grief in that mother’s face when I told her that her baby had died. I wrote about that story in the post titled A Christmas Miracle. Naturally, such affliction is averted if at all possible, but for some it arrives all the same.

How does one approach the all-powerful, creator God who allowed such tragedy? I can assure you that there are as many reactions to grief as there are opportunities to express it. The element of David’s story that caught my eye this time was his response once his child had died. David got up, washed himself, and went to the house of the Lord and worshipped. David worshipped the Lord at the pinnacle of his sorrow. The very same God with whom he had just been pleading for the life of his child. That is a man seeking the heart of God. That is God's own power at work.

For our own child, for Arwen, we are still imploring the Lord to heal her body: we still believe we will see it. Yet in the slumps, after feeling the defeats, our ambition is to worship the Lord. After carrying Arwen into the emergency room covered in vomit, worship the Lord. After losing all her hair, worship the Lord. After holding her hand while she's screaming in pain, worship the Lord. After staying up all night for hospital admissions, worship the Lord.

Recently, Arwen had some scans repeated to assess the progress of her chemotherapy. By all appearances, there has been little to no change. After the misery of four cycles of chemo and all the associated side effects, we’re tempted again to be fearful and discouraged when we don’t see fruit. It is the Lord who truly sees and He who will be glorified. We know this to be true. We worship the Lord.

The next step in Arwen’s journey was supposed to be a near total surgical removal of the main tumor. The expectation was that everything would have diminished in size. Since that is not the case, the operation will go on as scheduled, but likely will not result in removal of as much cancer. The next phase of therapy would have been stem cell transplant with immunotherapy in the distant future. Based on the scan results, however, the immunotherapy will be moved up and stem cell transplant postponed. All of this is just man’s small part. The Lord is indeed our Shepherd – we will not want for anything.

We have enjoyed a couple of weeks home together as a family. Arwen has been feeling mostly well and usually is in good spirits. A few weeks ago, on a day when Arwen was actually feeling particularly ill, it was her turn to pray for someone during family devotions. Generally we think of a friend or missionary family to pray for. Arwen prayed for her mom and dad...we cried as she prayed for our strength and encouragement. These are honestly very precious moments as we spend time together and continue in family devotion together. We are learning new things about the grace that God extends toward us. Scripture repeats often that God’s love is steadfast and that his mercies are unending. We encourage you all to turn your face toward Him no matter the circumstance. Worship the Lord.

Prayer requests:
We do not yet have a time but expect Arwen’s operation to take place in Ann Arbor on May 9th.

We fight discouragement whenever we hold onto a hope or a plan that is taken from us. Would that our only hope was in Christ.

God has provided for our living in the US and we expect that He will continue to meet our needs.