“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.

My Story – Uninterrupted….

I’ve had a number of people ask me to tell them my story – how I got involved, what made us decide Haiti, what the last 10 years have been like.

I started writing them, got a few of them posted and then for a variety of reasons (some good, some bad) got delayed in doing it.     So, I’m going to restart it.

Every day, at 4:00 PM EST, I’m going to post another “piece” of the story on this page.   If you want to read some of other things I’m writing – go to http://thevulnerableproject.org/.

Thanks!

Tom

Expect the Unexpected…….

As part of the process of putting together a dossier, at least for Haiti 10 years ago, you had to have a lot of documents notarized and then “legitimized” by the state government (in other words, verify that the Notary who notarized the papers was indeed a notary. Then they had to be “accepted” by the Haitian embassy before they could be sent to Haiti.

We didn’t like the idea of sending the documents to the Haitian embassy and waiting for them, so decided that we’d take a day off and drive them down there. We set up an appointment for 11:30 at the Haitian Embassy in Chicago (about a 3 hour drive for us).

At about 8:00 PM the night before, I was reviewing the paperwork one more time to make sure we had everything and realized, to my dismay, that we missed getting one of the documents stamped by the State of Michigan (about an hour away from us in the opposite direction).

Uh oh.

We found out that the State of Michigan office opened at 8:00. So we got the grandparents over, left at 6:30 in the morning and were waiting outside the office when they opened at 8:00. In and out in 15 minutes.

And then the mad dash from Lansing Michigan to Chicago. We were careful to not violate speed limits too much (a traffic stop would definitely make us late) and let’s say there was no time for “pit stops” for food or anything like that.

It looked like we were going to make it. And suddenly the red lights started coming on. Brake lights and more brake lights……

The traffic came to a screeching halt. But it’s right over there! We were on the expressway and could literally see the building that the Haitian embassy was in. But we couldn’t get to it.

At 11:25, we called the Embassy and told them what was happening and that we could see the Embassy but were stuck in traffic due to an accident. They assured us that it was “no problem.”

At 11:45, we got to the Embassy, walked in the door, only to be told that the person we needed had “just left for lunch.” We said, “No problem, we’ll get some lunch and be back around 1?” We were told to give it until 1:30.

So, we got some lunch and then came back at 1:30. And we waited and we waited.

And we waited some more.

Finally, the lunch meeting was over – at 4:00! Apparently this was our first introduction to what is know as “Haitian time.”

In 15 minutes we were done and on our way out of town on the way home.

We learned a valuable lesson that day. Actually two of them.

We are not in control, God is.

Expect the Unexpected.

Christmas Letters (Cont.)

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……

The Next Question–Part 2

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……