Tag Archives: Evacuation

Evacuation Chaos–Also known as why I didn’t talk to my wife that day……

Wednesday was the day in Haiti where Dixie and the staff took mountains of paperwork down to the government offices in Port Au Prince to make sure that everything was in order so that they could get Humanitarian Parole and actually get the kids out of Haiti and home to their forever families.

So, while there were families scrambling in the US to get ready, there were people scrambling in Haiti to get the paperwork and get the kids ready to go so that when it was ready, all was ready.

Thursday morning, I had a chance to spend a few minutes on IM with my wife. After a couple of minutes, she said, “I’ve got to go help get the kids ready to go. I’ll be online again when the kids are on their way down to the airport.”

“Sounds good – talk to you then.”

And then the day went on with its usual chaos and busyness. The busyness included a trip to the airport to see the families off to Miami who were flying with Northern Air.

Early afternoon came and went and my wife still wasn’t online. Then late afternoon – still nothing.

Early evening – all was quiet from her. I wasn’t concerned because I know how electricity and satellites work in and with Haiti.

Later evening – still no word. I was starting to think that she might have ended up going down to the airport with the kids – little did I know.

About 10:00, I got a text message from one of the adoptive dads who was part of the team that came in to help – “Hey Tom, your wife is on the plane and she’s taking care of a really sick baby!”

30 seconds later, my daughter popped online. She was off at college but following all of the goings on very closely because her heart is in Haiti and her siblings are from Haiti.

“Hey Dad, Mom’s on the plane that is evacuating the kids to the US!”

Me – “She is, but how did you know?”

It turns out, another one of the dads that was helping with the evacuation was sitting on the plane, took a selfie of him and his son and you could just barely see the corner of the shirt a nurse in the next row was wearing. “I know that’s Mom’s shirt, I just helped her pack it on Saturday!”

So, I never got to talk to my wife further that day but I did know she was safe and the kids were getting on the plane.

Little did I know what her day held for her………

But that’s a story for the next chapter.

Arm Wrestling Pilots

After a bit of a break, I’m going to try to get back to telling part of my story and how God has worked.    Probably a couple of times a week…….

One of my “jobs” during this stressful and chaotic time was coordinating the details regarding keeping the parents informed and ready to provide the information that they need so things could go as smoothly as possible.

As such, I was put in touch with the people at Northern Air and told to coordinate with them. I stopped by their hangar at the airport and met with the manager. We went over some details, talked about schedules and how everything would work.

“How much of an advance notice will you need? I really don’t know how far in advance we’ll know when they need to be there.”

“Well, let’s see, the pilots armwrestled over the privilege and “John” won. He lives about 20 minutes away from the airport, so I’d say if you give us a 25 minute advance notice, that’s be plenty.”

Did you read that right? Yes, the pilots all wanted to have the privilege of flying the adoptive parents down to Miami, staying down there as long as it took and then flying them back to Grand Rapids.

God is good.   All the time!

Anniversaries of a Sort– Miss E. and Sonia

While last week was an important week for Haiti and for those who care about Haiti (the 12th of January was four years since the quake), I want to share with you two special anniversaries that occurred this week.    One of them is a 4 year anniversary and the other one is a 3 year anniversary.

At 3:00 PM today, Eastern Time, I was finally able to track down one of our adoptive Moms.   This was a Wednesday afternoon and we had just gotten word that all of the US adoptive parents needed to be in Miami.   Not some time, not in 4 days, but in 24 hours!

I got in touch with Jayne while she was in Toy’s R Us attempting to get the stuff she was going to need IF her little girl could come home sooner.

Let’s just say that when I got on the phone with Jayne, I think the entire store heard our conversation.   She started screaming, crying, jumping up and down and just sort of, well, let’s just say it’s one of the most deeply moving and incredibly joy filled phone calls I’ve ever made.   I consider it an honor to have been the one to tell her to get on a plane.

Wednesday, I’m going to post a LOT of pictures from the 4 year anniversary of that homecoming.

The second anniversary actually happened yesterday.   3 years ago yesterday, I got a message from Dixie.  It went something like this,  “Tom, I have a project I want you to work on – we have a 4 month old who is going to die if we don’t get her out of Haiti and get her heart surgery.”

Gulp.  I had been on the job full time for less than 3 weeks and suddenly this little girl’s life was in my hands!  The first thing I did was call my good friend Rebekah – she’s done a number of medical visas before and said, “I need you to help  – I’ve never done this before!

We walked through it and began figuring out what it would take.   To say she was a big help is an understatement.

I’m going to quote Lisa on the next part –

“3 years ago today, January 19, I received this email that changed our lives forever, “We’ve got an urgent situation with Sonia, a 4 month old who has been at GLA since she was 6 days old. The short story is that our pediatrician said she needs to get out of Haiti for medical treatment or she will probably not survive.”

I still remember getting an e-mail from this lady by the name of Lisa who was so insistent on helping Sonia.   We talked, we e-mailed, we researched, she talked to hospitals, she talked to the senior pastor at her church, I talked to her senior pastor, we both talked to hospitals.   Lab reports were translated and scanned, X-rays were taken and sent.

And throughout it all, countless people were praying for Sonia.

And little by little, the details started falling into place.

And then Lisa (and Al)’s senior pastor talked to a friend of his.   Oh and that friend happened to be on the board at Miami Children’s Hospital.

God opened doors and a travel date was set for her to come to Miami on a Monday with surgery tentatively scheduled for later in the week.

The Saturday before that, I got a message from one of our nursing staff – “Tom, Sonia has a fever.”

Uh oh.   But they decided to send her anyway – and it’s a good thing.   She ended up spending 21 days in the hospital for a bone infection.

It’s an infection that would have killed her in Haiti.

Long story short, she had the surgery, it went well and she returned to GLA.   Her host family became her adoptive family and she will soon be coming home permanently.

Oh and the icing on the cake?   Since then, her adoptive parents have moved back to Michigan and I’m going to be able to meet them at the airport when they come home.

Here’s a picture of Sonia from when she first got sick and then one from earlier this month.

God is good.  Life is not easy, nothing is easy, but God is good.

And I’m blessed to play a small role in making a difference for these kids.


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