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.