I Have a Dream

I have a dream.    Actually I have a lot of dreams – but none of them are quite as broad and visionary as Dr. King’s goal was.

But I see a lot of pain in this world and I have a dream of doing something about it.   Actually I see a lot of possibilities of doing something about it.

One of the “somethings” that we’re doing is this coming Saturday, March 29 from 12:00 to 4:00 PM.    What is it? 

It’s our “semi annual” (but not always) Haitian adoption gathering.    It’s an opportunity for those of us who have adopted from Haiti, have worked in Haiti, have thought about Haiti to come hang out and play and talk and eat.

No set agenda, just an ability to be friends, to renew friendships, to get caught up on ideas, kids, stories and more.

So, what’s my dream?   Being an adoptive parent can very often be a lonely endeavor.    Very few of our “local” friends and family understand the unique challenges that parenting adopted kids can be.   I want to do things and create things that will help adoptive families feel more connected and more supported.

It’s a step in the right direction, if you know anyone who is located within a reasonable distance to the Grand Rapids Michigan area, tell them about it.    We’d love to have more people show up and connect with others with connections to Haiti.

Questions?   Call me at (616) 292-7559 or e-mail me at thomas.vanderwell@gmail.com.

Hope to see a lot of you there on Saturday!


Pet Peeve About Church

Yeah, I have to admit, I have a pet peeve about church.   And the older I get, the more I see, the bigger that pet peeve gets.

I don’t like it.

It makes it hard to go to church.

It makes life lonely.

It makes it difficult for church to be attractive to those who are searching.

It is one of the main tools that the devil uses to get in the way of the church in the 1st World.

What is the pet peeve?   It’s the failure to be real.  

It’s the failure to admit that we live in a fallen world.

It’s the failure to acknowledge that life is full of pain.

It’s the failure to be able to reach out and help those who are struggling.

It’s the unwillingness to welcome other people’s pain into your life and to walk alongside them “in it.” 

I firmly believe that God designed the church, not as a support network for people who have everything together.   Jesus came to be with the sinners, the IRS guys, the crooks, the prostitutes, those who are suffering.

So, if we’re going to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we need to be able to and willing to get our hands dirty, to share the pain of our friends, our church members, to be real and to share our own pain and struggles and welcome the support of others.

That’s when we will see God truly at work and that’s when we’ll see the church become alive and really make a difference.

So, take your tie off, relax and the next time you ask someone, “How’re you doing?”  Be prepared to tell them the truth and when someone answers that question with “fine,” I dare you ask them, “Really?”

God can use the pain and suffering – but only if we open up and share our lives with others and welcome them to share their lives with us.

God can turn pain into grace and glory but only if we will admit it and allow others to help us work through it.

*steps down from the soap box*

June 25, 2004

June 25, 2004 – a big day in our family’s life. A huge day in the lives of our two youngest. That’s the day that they left GLA and flew to America to start their new lives as Vanderwells.

A couple of things that “stick out” in my memory of that day……..

Watching the kids looking out the window as we drove down the mountain to the airport. The look of awe on their faces showed that while they had been out of the orphanage, they hadn’t been out much.

Waiting in line at the airport – white parents with black kids. Our first experience in standing out. Not good, not bad, just standing out.

The looks of the fellow passengers – the older Haitian lady on our plane who looked at us and said, very quietly and sincerely, “Thank you.”

The stares that we got when our daughter screamed the whole flight (double ear infections will do that to you).

The moment when the wheels touched down in Miami and our kids became US Citizens…….

Watching planes take off in Miami and watching my son look at every one of them, point and say, “Gwo” with a sense of awe and wonder. (Gwo is big in Creole).

Coming around the corner of the walkway at the airport to a crowd of people all waiting for us to come home. Sharing that moment with friends and family was truly special.

Walking out of the airport, hand in hand with my 3 1/2 year old son while he insisted on pulling the carryon suitcase.

Carrying Abby and Isaac in the house (sound asleep) watching their homecoming on the local news and then bringing them upstairs and putting them to bed.

In their own bed.

In their new house.

With their new family.


The “Call”

This is another part of our story that will forever remain part of our memory…….   The Friday before Memorial Day, 2004…….

It was the Friday before Memorial Day. Around 9:00 in the morning. The kids were at school and my wife had worked the night before, so she was sleeping and I was at work.


The phone rang, “Hi Tom, it’s Molly.” (Brain frantically racing trying to figure out Molly who and why she was calling.)


You know, Molly Little from Haiti.” Oh, that Molly. I hope this is good news…….


I tried to reach Cheryl at home but got the voice mail and didn’t want to leave a message…… So I hope it was okay to call you on your cell phone?”

Guess what! The Visa appt is June 17, it’s time to book plane tickets!”

What? Say that again? Did you really say what I thought you did?”

The rest of the conversation covered details but it was all pretty much a blur. And then a thought hit me in almost sheer panic – it’s only 9:00! I can’t tell anyone until 3:00 this afternoon when Cheryl gets up. If I go wake her up now, she’ll never get back to sleep. If I told anyone else, she’d be mad at me for telling them before telling her!

So, for 6 hours, I had to sit on the news that in 3 weeks we were going to be able to bring our kids home. It was a long 6 hours… The long wait was over (with my apologies to those currently waiting as our wait was nothing compared to yours) and it was almost time to start being a family of 5 kids in one place……..

Thank you God!