January 12, 2010–Part 1

January 12, 2010.

4:53 PM

It passed without any of our family knowing that anything important had happened.

I got home from an appointment outside the office at around 4:30, so I fired up my computer and was getting caught up on e-mail and such. In addition to e-mail, I had tweetdeck going in the background and it would pop up “news” on the right hand corner of my screen.

It was at 5:10 PM when it happened. A tweet popped up on my screen that said, “@LATimes – Major Earthquake – 7.5 – hits Port Au Prince Haiti”

And with that one tweet, we knew that many people in Haiti had just died and that for many others life would never be the same.

But we had no idea what it would really mean……

With the first “ripples” of news coming out of Haiti, there began a massive search for additional information. Channel surfing, Facebook, Twitter were all buzzing trying to figure out what it all meant.

And then the phone calls started coming. Adoptive parents called, “Tom, what do you know?”

Some of them were faithful, patient and strong. Some were panicked. Most were somewhere in between. Many of them tried to call the GLA office in Colorado but couldn’t get through there.

And details started to surface. One person would manage to get through on Twitter – and then it would spread like wildfire. @anynews – “The National Palace has collapsed.”

Every single one of the news reports that came out painted an overall picture that was more and more negative. There were bright spots – this person is okay, that person is okay but it was bad.

Really bad.

God why? Why did you allow this to happen?

Thankful that all of the kids and staff at GLA were safe – at least the ones that were at GLA when the earthquake hit, but mourning the tragedy all around.

Trailblazer? Me?

I’ve never really thought of myself as a trail blazer, but in many ways, we as a family became trail blazers when we started down this adoption journey.

Adopting from Haiti – when we began the process of adopting from Haiti, to the best of our knowledge, there was only one family in “our part” of Michigan that had adopted from Haiti. We found one more later but originally we felt very much like we were the first. This was exciting because it was full of unknowns and it gave us the opportunity to talk to people about Haiti but it was also rather lonely – because we didn’t have people we could “walk the journey with.”

As He quite often does, God had other plans. He allowed us to be one of the early ones (even though GLA had been doing adoptions for 6 years by then) and through it gave us the opportunity to help others avoid the “lonely” part that we felt. How did we do that?

We have, for years, (and shortly after Christmas will do another one) have been holding semi-annual Haitian gatherings. Typically they are a Saturday afternoon but they are devoted to being an afternoon where people can talk with others who are walking down the same path.

I’ll never forget a phone call we got one Saturday morning, “Hi, is this the Vanderwells?” “Yes it is.” “We were told late last night that you hold Haitian adoption gatherings at your church a couple of times a year. Do you know when the next one is going to be?” “Uh, in about 3 1/2 hours.” “Wonderful! We live 3 hours away, we’ll see you then! Can you give me directions?”

It was a family from the Northern part of Michigan who was in the process of adopting triplets from Haiti and were so excited to be able to talk to people who are also adopting from Haiti.

As they left, he said to me, “Thank you. Now we don’t feel so alone.”

Adopting is something that almost everyone can appreciate but very few understand the complexities of life, the difficulties and the joys that come with adoption. Not very many people can understand what it’s like to have a 10 year gap between your older kids and your younger kids. Not very many can understand what it’s like to have two kids in middle school when your friends are empty nesters. Not very many can understand how much different parenting adopted children with special scars is.

So, when you find friends who do understand, friends who “get it,” and friends who can walk that path with you, then you’ve found a treasure that’s worth a lot.

And those of us who are walking down that path, we must, we have to, reach out to others who are coming down the path and help them come along the trail too.

The parents benefit from it.

The children benefit from it.

The schools benefit from it.

Everyone benefits. And more people start seeing the growth, the strength, the beauty that comes from ashes.

And then EVERYONE benefits.

Not everyone can or even wants to understand the journey that God calls adoptive parents to go on. But God blesses adoptive parents by giving them others who do understand and want to walk that journey together.

Living Life as a Conduit

Michael is a friend of mine who flies for MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) in Haiti.   He sent this out to his supporters and it spoke to me.   I hope it does to you as well.   Reprinted in it’s entirety with his permission.

Conduit: A pipe or channel for conveying…

As the passengers stepped off the plane, one of them shook my hand, leaving me with a tip.  There were two pilots flying to Pignon, Haiti that day, so he told me to split it with the other pilot.  “Take your wives out for a nice dinner.”  “This is great,” I thought.  Karen and I could really use a nice meal, and I knew just where I would take her.  I even thought about ditching the kids and going all romantic!

On the way back to home base, the other pilot and I used the air to air frequency to chat.  Both of us were grateful…and even more so when I actually looked in my pocket at what he had handed me.  $100!  WOW.  That’s huge.  I really could take Karen out!  Then I had this thought:  “Our wives don’t need a night out. There are bigger needs”  I told the other pilot that instead of splitting it evenly between us, let’s share it with our national staff.  he eagerly agreed.

You see, our national staff take care of us.  They load and fuel the planes, weigh the passengers, field phone calls, and make sure we are where we’re supposed to be.  They’re really the backbone of the whole operation.  The pilots are just the face the passengers see.

When I arrived back to base, I had our office manager make change for me.  As it turns out, we have eight haitian staff.  Each of them were thrilled to receive this gift and expressed their gratitude.  Myself, a fellow pilot, and our national staff each had an extra $10 in their pockets.  That makes for a good day and  I thought that was the end of it.  But that wasn’t all.

As I was walking out to go home, I stopped by our office to check flights for the following day.  That’s when Dieucon stopped me.  His wife had just had a baby three days earlier and he had to share this: “They just called and asked me to pick up medicine for our baby on the way home.  That money will pay for it.”  Awesome!

Yes, a nice romantic dinner out with my wife would be nice.  And we’re probably overdue for one considering I can’t remember the last one we had.  That said, Karen was thrilled when I shared this story with her.  Somehow realizing you are part of something far greater than yourself outweighs your “needs” for things like a romantic dinner.

It is so much fun being a conduit!  Thanks for being part of our ministry through MAF in Haiti!

The Broyles Family.

P.S. If you haven’t ridden along with me on a flight yet, Click here to check out our latest flying video:


3 Needs and 3 Actions

Three stories of how God’s people at our home church have especially come through for the kids at God’s Littlest Angels:

The Earthquake – January 12, 2010 was a Tuesday. 4:53 pm in the afternoon was a time that not only killed thousands but changed the lives of many many others. I’ll have more on that later, but by Sunday morning, Cheryl was on her way down to Haiti as part of a medical team to help out at GLA. Sunday morning, the senior pastor at our church asked me if I’d give the church an update on GLA, on Haiti and how they were surviving the earthquake. Of course I agreed. So, I’m sitting in the sanctuary before church and as the pastor is walking down the center aisle, he stopped at my seat, leaned over and said, “Hey Tom, most of the deacons don’t know it yet, but we’re going to do a third collection for GLA this morning. I just wanted to make sure that you knew what we were doing.”  So, this is a collection that the church wasn’t planning, that people didn’t have a chance to plan for and probably didn’t bring their checkbooks for. But they gave and supported GLA to the tune of over $13,000 that morning.

In the fall of 2011, a member of the church approached me and wanted to talk about doing “something” to help GLA. So we met a couple of times, discussed possibilities and he agreed to do a matching gift drive where he would pay for up to half of one of the Toddler Houses (6 of them in total) if Hillcrest would pay for the other half between then and Christmas. Combined we’d need to come up with a little over $19,000 in about 6 weeks time.

They made it – with time to spare.

In the spring of 2013, I got a call from Dixie – “Tom, we’ve got a problem. The generator that we have been trying to keep going at the Toddler House – it died, fatal, terminal, scrap metal time.” “Okay, so we need a new generator – how much is that going to cost?” “Depending on what model we go with, right around $15,000 to $20,000.” “How much public electricity are we getting at the Toddler compound?” “About 10 minutes a day.”

Let me make sure you understand this. It was a Thursday afternoon and we had 75 kids living in around 4,000 sq. Ft. Of space with only 10 minutes of electricity per day. That means no running water, no refrigerators, no running toilets, no night lights or fans to combat the heat, no way to cook. A major problem.

By Sunday morning, the Senior pastor, the chairman of the elders and the chairman of the deacons had approved a 1 week pledge drive. What that meant was that on that Sunday, you had to either make the donation you wanted to have or you had to tell the deacons in writing what you would bring the next Sunday. We needed $15,000 and by Sunday night, we had more than that.

God has provided His people at Hillcrest an up close look at what it means to care for the orphans of the world and in three separate instances has given them chances to make a difference. Each time, God has blessed them and their efforts to make a difference for the kids in Haiti.

Has God instilled in our church the desire to help the orphans of the world because of what we’ve said and the way we’ve “pushed?” No, not at all. They have seen the desire to help those who are less fortunate because regular people were living their ordinary lives and inside those ordinary lives developed the passion for helping the kids in Haiti. That passion spread and God has blessed those efforts time and time again.

So what’s the point behind me telling you this? Strictly this, if you live an ordinary live pursuing extraordinary ways to help others, people will see your passion and will follow your actions way more than your words.

The children at GLA have all benefited from a church in Michigan who watched a family live their passion and it has benefited many kids.

God is good.

All the time.

Quiet Witnesses

One of the things that has been really remarkable over the 10 years we’ve been on this journey is watching the way that our kids have impacted the community and more closely our church. They were 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 when they came home – so not old enough to be a vocal advocate for the kids in Haiti.

But, as they grew and developed. As Abby went from a twenty one pound 2 1/2 year old, to a lively, vivacious and cheerful little girl, the church watched. As Isaac went from a rambunctious toddler with temper tantrum issues to a charming handsome young man who has come a long ways in dealing with his struggles, the church watched.

As their older sister began taking trips back to the orphanage to volunteer and came back with stories and pictures, the church watched.

And when they were given the opportunity to support the “big sister” on her trips, they did.     And when they were given the opportunity to go with her to help at God’s Littlest Angels, they did. As they saw Abby and Isaac grow and thrive and they saw our family remain involved, it moved them and they have played a tremendous role in the lives of the kids at GLA.