The Sun Also Rises

March 1, 2004 and January 13, 2010

Dramatic differences between the two days.

But many similar questions……

Different questions for those in country, in Haiti, but for those of us in the United States, similar questions……

What does it all mean?

Are my kids safe?

Are the people who care for my kids safe?

Do they have enough food? Enough water?

When will I see them again?

What does this mean to the adoption process?

What does it mean for Haiti?

A lot more questions than answers.

But there was also a reminder.

The Sun also rises.

The sun came up. The world continued to turn. The people who surround us in the United States continued to go on with life.

But didn’t they know? Actually, a lot of them didn’t.

But they also served as a reminder. A reminder of God’s faithfulness.

Even when things don’t seem to be going well. God’s still there.

Even when things are going really poorly. God’s still there.

Just like the sun comes up every morning, God is reminding us, it’s like God’s saying, “I’m here, don’t worry, I’m here.”

At that point, we didn’t know what the coup meant to anyone. What did it mean to us? What did it mean to my kids? What did it mean to those who worked in the former government? I mean, let’s be honest, there are probably some good and honest people working in government in pretty much any country. Suddenly they were out of a job.

Did the new government know what they were doing? We had no idea.

What was their view of the United States? It turns out later that there is some pretty substantial evidence that seems to say the US might have had a role in supporting the coup.

What was their view of international adoptions? There was historical precedence that other countries have had coups and then shut down foreign adoptions for years.

What was the U.S. government’s view towards helping adoptive families?

Certainly we weren’t alone – but how many other families were in the same “place” as we were? How many others had children in the process of adoption and were “stuck” for who knows how long?

There were a lot of things we didn’t know on that Monday morning. So many that it hurts my head to think back to that scary time.

But there was one thing that we did know.

We knew that come Monday morning, the sun came up and the world still moved the way it did before.

Because God’s reminder was there in the sunrise.

A new day dawning and God’s here.

God’s here. And there. Wherever your “here” is, God is there.

Whatever your circumstances, God’s there.

And right now God’s here too.

So, tomorrow, when the sun comes up, remember, God’s here.

He was then and he always will be.

And boy we had no idea the story he had planned for us……


The Coup – The Fear of the Unknown

(Some more of my thoughts on the night of February 29, 2004 as a Dad who had two kids in an orphanage in a country that was just had it’s government overthrown in a coup.) 


So, that Sunday night we went to bed.

Just like thousands of other people in West Michigan.

Except we weren’t like them.

We weren’t any better or stronger or more charitable. We were still just ordinary people.

But we had a great big old “unknown” sitting in the bottom of our stomaches.

What does this mean? Are our kids safe? (We knew they were at that moment – but what about the future?) Was this going to turn into a long civil war?

What are we going to do if the new government declares the paperwork from the old government to be worthless?

What if they close adoptions? How will we ever get our kids home?

So many unknowns.

I should have gone to bed with one big truth rather than so many unknowns. But I didn’t do that very well at that point.

So I went to bed worried.

What’s that big thing?

No matter what, MY GOD IS BIGGER.

He’s bigger than an overthrown government.

He’s bigger than potentially lost paperwork.

He’s bigger than all of that.

He’s bigger than what you’re struggling with today.

He’s bigger than what I’m struggling with today.

He’s bigger and He’s got this.

But it’s hard to step back and say, “okay, God, it’s you.”

None of us do that very well.

Not nearly enough of us do it at all.

Looking back on things from 14 years later, I can tell you a couple of things about that time:
⁃ God took a very confusing, very stressful and difficult time and did some very awesome things in that time (Read the post “Time – of Coups and Careers”)—
⁃ We’ve been blessed with some friendships that have stayed in place since those days, 14 years ago.
⁃ Through the publicity that Haitian adoptions received at that time, I know that hearts and minds were touched and opened to helping kids who need someone to stand up for them.
⁃ There were many things that happened after the earthquake in 2010 where we could look back and draw on what we learned and what we did after the coup to help us at the time of the earthquake. I’m not talking people who were on the ground in Haiti, I’m talking about people in the United States who were attempting to help or who were adoptive parents with children who were “stuck” in Haiti. But more on that later.

The long night of worry, of fear of the unknowns, came to an end. And the sun came up on Monday morning……..


Looking back at 2018?  No thanks!

I had a discussion with a friend he other day and we both agreed that if we had stood talking on January 1, 2018 and knew what 2018 would bring, we would  have…..well, we would had a hard time.

I don’t want to look at 2018 any more, though I have a feeling it will be a year that will be hard to forget.

John Pavlovitz is an author who I don’t like but I respect.   Why don’t Iike him?  Well, let’s just that I think sometimes the tone of what he says is a bit…… never mind.   Why do I respect him?   He is clearly thought, well written, rational and thorough in his beliefs and ideas.   I don’t always believe the same way but I always find myself better off for having read him.

Below are two exerpts that he wrote just before the end of 2018.   I hope you’ll take some time and read those and maybe even go on over and check out what the rest of the article has to say.

I’m going to look back at 2018 and remember the Dad that went home to glory.   I’m not going to look back at some of the other things.   As our minister said on Sunday, if God woke you up and brought you here today, he must have a plan for you.   Let’s try to see what it might be.



Be a story-learner………. When you sit across from someone and actually listen to them, you’ll realize how rich and complex and like your own, their stories are. You may not end up liking them better afterward or agree with them any more, you’ll just know them more.


Source: 2018 Was One Long Decade

A Strange February 29

(This is a bit of a flashback for you.  Our adoption was in process, we knew that Abby and Isaac were our kids and were anticipating probably another 3 months until we could bring them home.  Now read on….)


It was Sunday, February 29, 2004 and we were getting ready for church and the phone rang.

No one ever calls with good news right before church on a Sunday morning.

It was my mom, “Are you watching the news?” As a side note, my dad is a minister and he always checked the news on Sunday mornings to make sure there wasn’t any “world event” that he should know about while he led the church in worship.

“No, Mom, we don’t watch the news on Sunday mornings.”

“Turn on the TV. There’s been a coup in Haiti.”

“Okay….. Got to go. Bye!” Click.

We turn on the TV, turn it to CNN and sure enough, my mom was right.

They were playing video – I don’t know if it was live or an hour or two delay – of former Haitian President Jean Baptiste Aristide pulling on to the runway in a private jet and fleeing the country.

What did this mean? We didn’t know.


This was not even on our radar screen of things that could go wrong in an adoption.

We went to church and prayed and wondered and prayed and tried to pay attention to what the minister was saying. I don’t remember any of it.

I do know that this was the days before cell phones were actually smartphones. So we couldn’t check e-mail (our primary source of contact with the orphanage) until we got home from church.

Needless to say, we didn’t hang around church talking with friends. We got home as quickly as we could and “dialed in” (yeah, it was 14 years ago) and before long, we got an e-mail from the orphanage staff. Everyone was safe, nothing was going on near the orphanage. From what they were hearing, it was all “down the mountain.”

Whew, big sigh of relief. Thank you, God.

A little while later, another e-mail from the orphanage – “we’re hearing that the trouble that was “down the mountain” is starting to come “up the mountain. Please pray that it doesn’t cause us any problems.”

Okay……. Scratch that sign of relief and replace it with a great big old knot in the pit of my stomach.

A little while later another e-mail from the orphanage – “shift change time – our staff that is coming in are telling stories of having to step over dead bodies in the road on their way here. We can hear gunfire, but it still sounds like it is off in the distance.”

Hmmm, I don’t think I’ll be getting much sleep tonight.

After dark (at least dark in Haiti), a final e-mail for the day – “It’s dark, the sun has gone down and it appears that most of the protesters have gone home. It’s quiet. No sound of gunfire nearby or even down the mountain. Pray that tomorrow dawns peacefully and everyone stays calm.”

And with that, we had nothing to do but pray and go to bed. What does this mean for tomorrow? What does this mean for our kids?

What does this mean for the country of Haiti?

What does this mean for our adoption process?

Lots of questions, but only one answer.

My God is bigger than a coup.

MY God is BIGGER than a coup.


I wish I could say I fell asleep holding on to that promise and slept peacefully and calmly and slept like a baby all night. I’d be lying.

I worried, I tossed and turned. I wondered.

I kept thinking of the title of the Ernest Hemmingway Novel, “The Sun Also Rises.” (I read it in college).

Tomorrow, the sun will rise in Haiti. The sun will rise over the Vanderwell house.

And what will things look like?

We had no idea.


”Quit Trying to Steal the Pen” by Toby Mac

“God is still writing your story.
Quit Trying to Steal the Pen”

Quit – Stop – don’t do it.

Quit trying – It doesn’t usually work, but you can try.

Steal – it doesn’t really belong to you.

The Pen – the thing that makes your story the work of art that it is.

So what does that leave you with?

God holds the pen.

God is the artist in charge of writing our stories.

If we attempt to steal the pen from the artist, we’re going to mess up the story.

If we attempt to steal the pen, we’re messing up God’s work of art – which is you and me.

Don’t mess up the Master’s work of art. Instead, ask the Master, “how can I help you write the story?

But if you do ask that, be prepared for what he might ask you to write about.

It will be a great story if you write it with God’s lead…..