Christmas Letters – The Reaction

Once we had opened up all of the Christmas presents, my wife and I told them to sit down on the couch and I got three envelopes, handed one to each of our girls and told them to open it, read it and not respond until all three were done reading (they all read at different speeds).

It was the Gideon’s fleece moment. If they ran screaming to their rooms in sheer terror, then we’d have to reevaluate whether God was really calling us to do this.

We waited.

They finished reading. Their responses?

“I won’t have to be the baby of the family any more!”

“Cool except I don’t want a younger brother!”

“Can I have a younger brother?”

God opened a door and so we began to venture down that road. The path was fog filled and hard to see but we went one step at a time.

So we had decided we were going to do “something.” The girls were told and they were on board. How did we end up with Haiti?

Stay tuned……

Honey–How Do We Tell the Kids?

The next question that almost immediately came to mind was, “How do we tell the kids?”

How do we tell them that we’re going to add to the family – and we don’t know who, how, where from, what age? There’s a lot we don’t know.

We decided to tell them at Christmas time. So I wrote a letter addressed to all three of them.

In it, we told them how proud we are of them. How well they are doing and how much they have grown up. How grateful we are that they all love Jesus and are beautiful on the inside (and outside – but that’s not as important).

We also told them how we are feeling that God is telling us that we have more room – more room in our hearts, more room in our house and more room in our family. We said we didn’t know what that really meant. We didn’t know if God was calling us to:

Adopt an infant domestically.

Adopt from the foster care system.

Adopt internationally

Become a foster family

Do the “Heal the children” thing for a series of kids who need a host family while they are in the US for medical treatment.

But we were feeling God’s call and we wanted to share it with them upfront and right away because it was something that would have an impact on them as well.

The letter then finished with the StarFish Poem. You know the poem? The one where the kid is throwing starfish back into the ocean and an older gentleman says, “Why even bother, there are thousands? What’s the difference?”

It made a difference for that one.

How did they respond?  Stay tuned……

Spiritual Warfare–It’s All In Your Head?

I heard a sermon this morning that really made me think.   

It made me think about spiritual warfare.   If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past, you know that I’m a firm believer in the fact that we are in the middle of warfare.   

The pastor talked about experiences he’s had worshipping near witch doctors in Africa and being woken in the middle of the night to extremely vocal and graphic voodoo ceremonies in Haiti.   He told the story of a friend raised in a very bad part of Muskegon Heights (those of you in Michigan will know a bit about where that is) and he read a rap that his friend wrote while sitting across from the house that he grew up in in that very bad part of town.

What was the similarity to all of those situations?   It was a battle for the mind.   Satan is fighting for the minds of God’s people.

Because he knows that if he can win the minds of God’s people, then he will win God’s people and that’s his ultimate goal.

So, is spiritual warfare all in your head?   Well, not in the way that we typically say it is, but from the standpoint that it is Satan’s primary point of attack, it is in your head.

That means that Satan is fighting against our feelings of self worth.   He’s trying to make us feel full of shame, self doubt and disbelief.

That means that Satan is fighting against our belief that God’s got this.   God has “this” under control – and we need to believe that.  No matter what “this” is.

That means that the most important thing we can do is make sure that we continually rely on Jesus for the cure (see   But we also need to be aware of the condition of our minds and how the fight is going. 

Are we feeling the strength of God in our minds so that we can withstand the attack of the devil?   Or are we cluttering our minds with things that make it easy for him to find his way in?

Are we aware of what’s going on in our minds and how the love and forgiveness of Jesus counteract the negative feelings, the shame, the struggles?

Are we aware that helping others (or getting help ourselves) to make sure our minds stay strong against the attacks of the devil is not only “okay” it’s, frankly, God’s way of providing us some of the strength we need to combat the devil.

Get the devil out of your mind, keep your mind strong and focused on what God wants and anything else that Satan throws at us can be handled.

So, yes it is all in our heads – and if that’s the battle ground, then we need to rely on God’s strength and the help of others to fight back.

And we need to do what we can to help others fight that battle too……


“Boy Was I Naïve! (How Haiti Changed My Story

As I told you before, this is the first installment in “My Story.”    I hope you remember that is my story from my perspective – and is not indicative of anyone else’s story.  Enjoy!

(How Haiti changed my story)

by Tom Vanderwell

I’ll never forget the day.

It was a Sunday afternoon in October of 2002 and the kids were off doing what they do on a Sunday afternoon, reading, playing, just relaxing. My wife and I were sitting in our four season porch reading the paper like we often do on Sunday afternoons.

She said to me, “Did you read the “Child of the Week” segment?” The local paper, in conjunction with some of the local adoption agencies, did a “Child of the Week” segment about kids in foster care waiting for families.

“I did.” I responded. We looked at each other and said, “We could do that.” Suddenly something that we had talked about “possibly” doing “some day” became now.

Our older kids were old enough and great kids. We had room. Room in our hearts and room in our house.

And just like that, a journey started.

And boy was I naive.