The 20th Update December 18, 2009 marked the 20th monthly update I had received from GLA for my son Kenderson. This unique update was truly a Christmas gift and made the tears well up faster and hotter than previous updates. Strong, active, verbal, independent, secure, loud, energetic, content, shy, bright, playful was the list of words compiled by GLA staff members to describe the little boy who was referred to me at 4 months of age, I had met once at 9 months and got to know on paper from the fantastic GLA monthly updates, but who was now nearly 2 years old and obviously developing a personality. As always, I clung to every single word of the update, proudly passed it along to my list of supporters, and relished the responses I received: words of encouragement and declarations of Kenderson’s apparent health and well being. The update also struck my heart fiercely. A deep longing to wrap my arms around this bright, shy, energetic, playful child right now stabbed deeply. It had been an agonizing 20 months of waiting with the end not yet in sight.
The 20th Update Little did I know that the December 2009 Kenderson Update would be the last. I had gone for my nightly dog walk with a good friend who lived down the street on January 12, 2010 and had just walked in the door when she called and urged me to turn on the news. An earthquake had struck Haiti less than an hour ago. With trembling hands and a wildly beating heart, I quickly opened my laptop and clicked on “favorites.” God’s Littlest Angels was an oft chosen site and my eyes found it instantly on the list. I warned myself the opening page would look the same as it had for the past several weeks; information about adoptions was never frequent or adequate enough for a waiting parent. My knees gave way when I saw in bold red letters “An earthquake of magnitude 7.0 Mw struck Haiti tonight. There is minor structural damage to the orphanage but all staff and children are safe.” Thanks be to God!
The 20th Update I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV that night (or for the next 2 weeks for that matter) and was incredulous to see Dixie Bickel being interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today show the next morning as I ate my cereal! Suddenly, the information from Haiti came fast and furious. What would this mean for adoptions? My adoption agency (Bethany Christian Services), adoption advocacy groups, and GLA were working feverishly to get governments to do the right thing and evacuate children already in the adoption process out of the country. The next 10 days were a rollercoaster of emotion and activity. I continued to work full-time but would check my e-mail constantly for new updates or directions. The day the United States granted Humanitarian Parole, I stopped by the store to buy diapers – the first item I had allowed myself to stock in preparation for Kenderson’s homecoming. The icy evening of January 20, I was at a friend’s home borrowing toddler- sized clothing, when the message came that parents of GLA children were to be in Miami by 6:00 pm the following evening.
The 20th Update I hustled home and made arrangements to fly out of Minneapolis (300 miles from my Sioux Falls, South Dakota home) with my Creole-speaking friend, Karla, and the Christenson’s, another adoptive family from my hometown. We decided that the foggy, freezing drizzle weather that evening, warranted getting on the road as soon as possible. By midnight we were driving caravan to Minneapolis. We made it to the specified gate at the Miami airport by the specified time and did what we all knew how to do best…wait! Later we were informed by Dixie during a preamble speech to meeting our children where everyone hung attentively on her every word, that there had been delays in Haiti and a long process of documenting each child in Miami. At that point it no longer mattered, we could hear the sounds of children in the next room. They were finally here, all cuddly and warm and full of life; no longer just photos and descriptive words. A few moments later, Kenderson was placed in my arms and I began to fall in love with my strong, active, verbal, independent, secure, loud, energetic, content, shy, bright, playful 23 month old son!
What GLA Means to Me What GLA means to me: The amazing thing about those descriptive words submitted about Kenderson is how accurate they are. When you prepare to adopt a child living in an orphanage, you hope and pray they are well fed, clothed, and stimulated. GLA goes well beyond the basics. They actively know and love their children. They promote normal development in every possible way .… and it pays off. Kenderson and I bonded immediately. When he saw me, heard my voice, felt my embrace there was no hesitation. It all seemed very familiar to him. When he entered our home, he seemed to recognize the space from photo albums obviously viewed frequently. I have to credit this to ideas that GLA provided to waiting parents preparing for their child’s homecoming and by conditioning him with attention, loving care, and general pampering. GLA not only excels at their Haitian baby mission but they also become involved in the betterment of their Haitian community. The earned respect given Dixie and all the GLA staff is obvious when you visit Haiti but also apparent when you read about the involvement of the staff in various non-orphanage related projects. I pridefully collect information provided by and found out about GLA to pass on to my son at the appropriate time. And I look forward to one day returning with him to the vibrant, loving home of his first 23 months. Jeanine Scheetz and Kenderson (3yrs)