Elliana and Jayne–Miracle #2

So, about 3:30, we head out to the airport. On the way out there, my cell phone rings (a very common occurence.) But this time it’s my better half calling from Miami. “I’m worried about Elliana.” “What do you mean?” (She’s a nurse, I was a banker, so just saying, “I’m worried” doesn’t work.)

We talk a bit more and work out a plan. I get to the airport and I see Elliana’s aunt. I go and talk to her and relay what Cheryl said and her concerns about Elliana’s health. She calls Elliana’s pediatrician and then finds me again.

“Tom, here’s what the doctor said. There are four main things to look for. If she has two of the four, I’ll see you at my office tomorrow morning at 10. If she has 3 out of the four, go directly to the hospital, don’t pass go, don’t go home first.” So, Aunt Joy and I work out a plan. When Jayne and Elli come off the plane, I’ll work my way around “behind” her so that she can’t see me. Aunt Joy will go in, give her a hug and will do a quick assessment of how Elli’s doing. She will then, behind Jayne’s back, give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. If it’s a thumbs up, nothing more will be said. If it’s a thumbs down, I’ll come in, hug Jayne and tell her the story.

From the minute that they got off the plane, it was obvious that it was going to be a “thumbs down” situation. So, when Aunt Joy gave me the official thumbs down, I came in, gave Jayne (mom) a hug and told her the story (starting from the phone call from Cheryl.)

Her response, “If your wife says that, then we better go to the hospital and we better do it now.” So we gathered for a group prayer and sent a new mom and her daughter, home in Grand Rapids for 15 minutes, off to the hospital. This was a Friday night and she didn’t get home until Wednesday. The doctors told Mom later that if she had waited until Monday to bring Elli to the doctor, the results might have been significantly different (I think you know what that means!)

So, in spite of all of the joy and the emotions over long awaited children coming home, here was a mom making the trip from the airport to the hospital. Knowing her daughter was sick but not knowing how sick. She’d only had her daughter with her for less than 12 hours and she had to take her to the hospital.

But God was gracious and the people at the hospital took very good care of her. 4 years later, she is a bouncy, bubbly and absolutely beautiful little girl full of character, charm and intelligence.

Oh and did I mention she gives her Mom a run for her money when it comes to the quantity of words expended every day? 🙂 Love to both of you!

Quiet Witnesses

One of the things that has been really remarkable over the 10 years we’ve been on this journey is watching the way that our kids have impacted the community and more closely our church. They were 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 when they came home – so not old enough to be a vocal advocate for the kids in Haiti.

But, as they grew and developed. As Abby went from a twenty one pound 2 1/2 year old, to a lively, vivacious and cheerful little girl, the church watched. As Isaac went from a rambunctious toddler with temper tantrum issues to a charming handsome young man who has come a long ways in dealing with his struggles, the church watched.

As their older sister began taking trips back to the orphanage to volunteer and came back with stories and pictures, the church watched.

And when they were given the opportunity to support the “big sister” on her trips, they did.     And when they were given the opportunity to go with her to help at God’s Littlest Angels, they did. As they saw Abby and Isaac grow and thrive and they saw our family remain involved, it moved them and they have played a tremendous role in the lives of the kids at GLA.

“This Mess Is So Big” Dr. Seuss and 3rd World Children

In the last week in Haiti, there have been 4 incidents of horrific violence that have impacted friends of mine.   While they are physically unharmed, they have lost friends and they have seen and felt things that are so big and so ugly that it is truly heartbreaking.

You can read her recounting of one of the stories at http://www.haitifoundationagainstpoverty.blogspot.com/2014/05/we-cannot-unsee.html.   Warning – make sure you read her disclaimer at the top of the post.

Two other of my friends are currently in Haiti.   They are training mental health professionals (Haitians) on the impacts of trauma on children and the long term destruction (her word, not mine, but I agree) of the lives of children and its impact on the future of Haiti.   Sobering to say the least, heart wrenching to more accurately describe it.

You can read her “Short Sermon” at http://sahzu.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/a-short-sermon/.

So, if you read both of those posts, you’ll know a good part of the reason that I was up until after 1:00 this morning.  Heavy, heavy stuff.

This morning, as I’m driving back from bringing my daughter to school, this phrase from “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss popped into my mind:

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”

― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

No, I’m not suggesting giving up.    God doesn’t give up on us, so we don’t give up on fellow man, especially on the vulnerable women and children who are the ones most in need (Read Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect – it will scare you).

Instead, I’m suggesting, proposing that we take an additional approach to fighting this battle.

Continue with the physical aid that is being offered to those who are in need of help.   But ramp it up on the spiritual side.

Acknowledge more openly that we are fighting the devil and fight back with a concerted effort at more and more focused prayer on behalf of those who are being impacted by poverty, by disease, by violence and by the devil’s efforts to make it harder for the good to triumph in this world.

What is this prayer effort going to look like?    Frankly, I don’t know.

I just know that God says that He will win the war but He wants us to be his prayer warriors.

If you have ideas or want to be part of whatever “it” might be, leave a note in the comments or e-mail me at thomas.vanderwell@gmail.com.

This mess is so big that we can’t pick it up all by our selves.

But I know someone who can and will.   The question is when and how.


A Complicated Day

For many people yesterday was a good day.    Invite Mom over for dinner, spend a little money on her and it’s all a good day.  (Okay, I simplify).

But for many others, it’s a very complicated day…….

It’s complicated for an adopted child who knows they have another mother somewhere “out there.”    But they haven’t met her, don’t remember her, feel abandoned by her, feel guilty for wanting to know more about her, feel like they are rejecting their adoptive mom by feeling that way.    It’s a complicated day.

It’s complicated for an adoptive child who has met or remembers their biological mom but can’t really wrap their head around why they aren’t with their “birth mom.”   It’s a complicated day.

It’s complicated for an adoptive mom who spends the day being loved and cared for by her family – all while knowing that at least one of her children is think of and trying to balance feelings between her and her “other” mom and will probably have a hard time doing that. It’s a complicated day.

It’s a complicated day for adoptive moms who cherish the time that they’ve had with their adopted child while at the same time mourning the time that was lost when their child didn’t have a mom caring for them – and the scars that those times left.  It’s a complicated day.

It’s a complicated day for adoptive moms who have children where the scars run too deep and they are not able to appreciate or give love back to the adoptive mom who loves them endlessly and tirelessly.  It’s a complicated day.

It’s a complicated day for those who want to be mothers but aren’t able to.    It’s a complicated day for mothers whose children aren’t making the type of life choices their moms would like.

So, it’s a complicated day – so what?

So be sensitive.   Don’t ask all of the mothers to stand up in church and make the ones who want to be mothers feel awful.

Don’t assume that everyone is living the perfect middle class life and all is well and totally without struggles.   Be open to allowing those you love (or even just like) to express their true feelings and avoid having to wear the mask of perfection that so many seem to think is perfectly okay to wear.

It’s a complicated day in a sin filled fallen world.   Do your part to make it a day filled with a little more sensitivity, caring and acknowledgment of the pain in it.

And then it won’t be such a complicated day.


Monday Morning Teddy Bears

Monday morning – the sun comes up. And now what?

The government that was in place on Friday in Haiti is gone. Nothing is the same.

Where is our paperwork?

Who’s in charge of IBESR? (Haitian social services?)

When will the airport open again?

When will the US Embassy open for normal business again?

A lot more questions than answers.

But even with that, an overwhelming belief and understanding that God was in charge and that He had a plan in spite of everything that was happening.

The internet was buzzing and there were people from all over the United States who were in the same spot that we were – with kids stuck in Haiti and a lot more questions than answers.

And that led to discussions. Discussions about Teddy Bears……