Anchored on the Rock January 12, 2010 I returned home about 8:30pm, from a staff after-holiday party, on a snowy Michigan evening, to some 16 blinking messages on my answering machine. „Oh dear‟, I thought, „this certainly can not be good.‟ But with CD‟s playing in my vehicle, I was clueless as to the earthquake news from Haiti. I began to listen to each message, of family and friends calling to ask and pray if I knew of the earthquake, how it may have affected „our‟ orphanage and if my Haitian angel was all right. Even while listening, I logged on to my computer to go to the GLA web-site and as some of the later machine messages/people already were calling back to tell me --they had done the same thing. We learned that GLA was left standing, “shaken but OK”, while their neighbors & neighborhood suffered great loss and destruction. My heart beat hard and fast, I had a pit in my stomach. My computer became my best friend and I spent many hours that night yet and in the days to follow, chatting with friends and fellow GLA parents trying to keep abreast on what was happening and what we could possibly do. I finally went to bed, spent a sleepless night and got up early to watch more on the TV news and computer. So engrossed in what I saw, I could scarcely tear myself away to go to work.
Anchored on the Rock I walked in to school (I‟m a teacher) to a group of colleagues and friends with great concern and questions, but soooo ready to pray and give hugs. I don‟t remember much of my „work‟ that week, only hurrying home to updates and/or news from Haiti and GLA. I do know that my school community was already being our prayer warriors, showing great love and concern daily, even hourly! And I know that I became a media junkie, particularly the news stories and images on TV and social networking on my computer.
Anchored on the Rock That next weekend, on Sunday eve, I recall my sister making arrangements to go to her neighbor‟s to watch TV coverage on Larry King Live, with Dixie on the program!! I was frozen, could scarcely breathe, but soaked in every word she said and the stared unblinking at the pictures surrounding her. I think that was when I began to “hear” the possibility of the children coming home soon and much earlier than the regular adoption process would be. No one seemed to fathom how this could happen, yet Dixie was already working to release the kids so that GLA could be used for the many hurt and orphaned children that surely would be coming their way. That Monday, Jan 18, I had an In-Service /work day at school (Martin Luther King Day). I remember the roller coaster of emotions and possibilities beginning to roll higher and lower. But I kept Tom Vanderwell‟s quote from that day: ‟It is becoming more likely that the children will be coming home soon, I‟d bet within the week.” My dear sister, my rock, also messaged me to say she‟d been watching the news too and praying for the situation, and „just had that feeling that Haiti would need to say, take these children to their forever families, we have far more children we need to worry about…‟ She invited herself over that evening and we set up the crib and worked to tidy up the bedroom , sort clothes (already donations) and pondered „immediate‟ necessities. Little did she know that I ventured a little trip to Babies R Us already that day!!
Anchored on the Rock Tuesday, exactly one week after the quake, I opted to take a „personal‟ day. I went in to school, to my 2nd graders, and tried to explain to them what was going on during our devotions time. They had lots of questions, we prayed, some teared up with me; and then I was off to secure some records and do some paperwork with my social worker at Bethany. It was becoming just a teeny bit more real that „our‟ kids could soon be home in our arms! On Wednesday, January 20, (Happy Birthday DAD!!) I took another day off from work; I chose one more day to try to prepare our home and my self as best as I could. My sister—remember, the Rock?—somehow took the afternoon off as well and conned me into going to Babies R Us to „register for things & necessities‟. And there in the aisle with bottles, nipples, bibs, and baby health supplies, with the „registering scanner gun‟ thingie shaking in my hands, I got a phone call from a Grand Rapids-side angel (who still wishes to be anonymous) that there would very soon be 2 donated airplanes waiting for our use, whenever/to wherever---for the some 12 families from the greater Grand Rapids area who had waiting children from GLA. I happen to know this anonymous angel, she‟s been a parent of kids in my classroom; she saw the need, and knew she could do something about it. She had been chatting with Tom VW for several days, and together they „hatched‟ a plan for the probable home-coming of the children some time FRIDAY or Saturday!! The situation was deteriorating at GLA with food and water rations and Dixie‟s push was to get the children „home‟! We knew not yet exact details but had these 2 private jets totally at our disposal. What a blessing, what a(nother) gift!! It was tentative that we would travel late Thursday to whatever airport the children were coming into.
Anchored on the Rock That evening, a good friend wanted to do dinner with me. She just „wanted to be close…support….pray…‟ she said. And there in Logan‟s, over some mud-pie dessert and coffee, my phone rang again. Tom VW said that our Thursday, 4pm flight out of Grand Rapids was now becoming an 11am flight, from GR to Miami. The GLA angels were spending all of Thursday „enroute‟ and hoped to arrive late in the day in Miami. We knew not how long we would have to stay there with them or how the transitions would take place. Wednesday night…HOW to pack simple , carry-on bags for a 11 month old little girl AND myself . After all—this would be the beginning of „doing it as a single Mom!‟ In place first, were all possible related paperwork needed to claim my angel. Then, some comfy clothes and toiletry basics. Also to consider: going from snowy 20 degree Grand Rapids to 70 degree Miami and back again. We also got a short , immediate wish list from Dixie of necessities for her and the nurses. After all, if baggage restrictions were almost non-existent for these „relief‟ flights, what might she and the staff anticipate needing??
Anchored on the Rock After minimal sleep (again! ) my family picked me up early and we visited Meijers and Staples to fill recyclable bags with the items Dixie thought of~Pedia-Lite, Infant and children‟s Tylenol, formula, even clasp envelopes and other office supplies hard to come by, especially now. We made our way to a private hangar at the GR airport. Ironically, I remember waiting for a hearse and procession for a fallen soldier coming home that day. A family sadly awaiting the body of their son, to lay him to rest at home; conversely, I was off to „rescue‟ my daughter to give her a new life at home…..more tears. Four families met at the hangar, instantly good friends, through such shared experiences. The other families would fly out just a bit later. We prayed together, gave necessary details to the workers of the donor, and climbed on board the plane. I learned later that the pilots had “drawn straws” for who would get to fly us down and back; apparently Ryan and an older Grandpa-like gentleman had won. We arrived in Miami in early afternoon, went to our hotel and tried to relax. I tried to nap…much too emotional….I ended up sitting out in the sunny courtyard which was warm change-enough from chilly Michigan! Our 4 family travel-mates met for dinner and then headed to the Miami-Dade airport.
Anchored on the Rock There, I was surprised and intrigued by all the media reporters, cameras and people milling about, even security; it took me just a moment to realize they were there for OUR stories!! Some post-earthquake kids from on Haitian orphanage, coming home to their forever families!! Eventually the airport folk „put‟ us in an unused ticketing gate; the media was not allowed there. Gradually assembling were between 100-200 people—we would become known as the “Haiti 80”—families and loved ones of some 80 young children, all from one orphanage, coming „home‟ to forever families, not to mention safety, medical attention, good food & clean water, stability and an unshaking earth. The wait was bearable only because we were all in the same situation~ dreams were coming true in a most extra-ordinary way. We prayed and chatted through our own stories and histories, but also what the children were and would go through. As they came down the mountain, past ugly and difficult scenes, to an airport in upheaval, waiting who-knows where/outdoors?, on to an airplane, which they‟d never seen up close, let alone ridden on….all with loved and trusted staff and adults from GLA.
Anchored on the Rock The night dragged on; we were brought Dunkin Donuts, endless coffee and too much airport/junk food. We walked and lounged (Uncomfortably!) , we monitored the arrival boards, and avoided the media-stalkers. At long last, their flight arrived at 1am, and they began the cumbersome process of customs and immigration. The children‟s all-nighter became our all-nighter and towards daybreak we were herded into private conference rooms at the other end of the airport. We watched on local TV and some people‟s phones as the long line of children was escorted in, almost one child-to one caregiver! They went into the room right next door to us and amid snacks, drinks, clothes & diaper changes for them, we heard them SINGING „This is the Day the Lord has Made‟. Not a dry eye in our room… Dixie came into our room to talk to us for about 15 minutes to share their ordeal(s) of the past several days. Then in groups of 2-3 families, and in alphabetical order of kids‟ first names, no less, we were invited to meet our children. I had been warned just before leaving GR that Elli was a little sick, so my angst heightened. At approx 9:23am, Friday Jan 22, exactly one month after I‟d met her for the first time, I squeezed 11- month old Elliana Grace Marquelove in my arms. Dixie said she indeed was not well, likely a bit dehydrated, she‟d even had an IV on their plane ride to Miami. To my untrained eye, she looked as tired and weary as I felt…BUT we were TOGETHER…our GOTCHA moment!!
Anchored on the Rock We checked out with the orphanage folk with our priceless paperwork and, as a group, our bunch of 4 families opted to head home as soon as possible. We returned to the hotel to pack up, clean up, then hopped our ground transport and flew out of Miami about 2pm. Back home in Grand Rapids, an incredible group of family, friends and school community were awaiting us in the private hangar……and to LOTS of smiles, tears and cheers, WE CAME HOME. As per some „behind the scenes „ communication that had gone on on our behalf, we were hugged, squeezed, cheered for and prayed over; then whisked away to the ER of GR Children‟s Hospital. I scarcely knew what names to give at check-in, Elli was not yet under my insurance, I had no history or any idea of what was wrong….yet De Vos‟ Children‟s Hospital was incredible. As we watched ourselves on the 6pm news there in the ER Isolation room, countless doctors, nurses and other medical folk checked Elli over from head to toe. Later in the evening, several more popped their heads in our room--theyd „heard our story‟ or seen us on the news. Sometime after midnight we were moved to the PICU-Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and spent the next 3 nights there. There were issues of concern, but it also turned out to be a wonderful way to do all of the initial medical check-up stuff quickly! There was severe dehydration, Hep A, some respiratory infection, and a still-unnamed pneumonia which presented like TB. Our pediatrician later said that if Elli hadn‟t come home when she did, there may not have been a homecoming. Brings me to my knees.
Anchored on the Rock Elli has been an incredible gift, a constant reminder of God‟s plan and timing and the epitome of joy, delight, growth and love in our family. She came with very little language at less than a year old, but she has more than made up for it!! She is happy, bright, inquisitive, smart, courageous, talented in memory, song and „dance‟ and already learning to love her Jesus. She has been a reminder and example to countless others as to God‟s good and perfect plan and I am humbled to be a small part of that. I cannot sing GLA‟s praises enough…talk about courage, happiness, faith, giftedness in caring for God‟s Little Angels. Dixie and staff have an incredible strength, a will and desire to do whatever is best for the children and families of Haiti. In the very beginning of her life, Elli was placed in the care and nurturing hands of „God‟s biggest angels‟. She was brought to GLA at 5 days old, and, besides eternal gratefulness to her tummy-Momma for her difficult decision, I will also be eternally grateful to „Dixie and Company‟ for their tireless, faithful, purposeful and loving care for the tiny ones that come into their care. Yes, God‟s Angels—big and small—are very busy these days!! I cannot say thank you God enough………… God is God and He is good…..alll the time!! ~Jayne and Elliana Grace Marquelove Boerman