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.


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