Craig and I met in high school...were friends for many years and began dating in college. It was during our time in college that adoption began to be an occasional topic of conversation. We knew that we both thought that it was a beautiful process. College was a time of deep reflection and searching to find out what God's plan was for our lives. We were certain that the plan was for us to journey down a path together, we just didn't know where that journey would take us. Honestly....I could never have dreamed that it would be this fantastic.
"For I know the plans that I have for you" declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
For Craig's last two years of college, he shared a house with 7 other Christian guys and together they decided to sponsor a child through Compassion International. They were paired up with a little girl named Wichelanda Bazil from Haiti. She was 2 years old and a beautiful child. She had a mother and father and several siblings, but in extreme poverty, they were not able to provide her with the basic necessities of life. Craig and his roommates faithfully supported her and prayed for her. Compassion International provided her with food, clothing, education, medical care and an opportunity to learn about Christ. All of her basic needs were met through this program.
Shortly after the men graduated from college and began their careers and some of them married...it began to be difficult to coordinate the sponsorship from so many people. Craig and I decided to sponsor her on our own and allow the others to choose whether to continue with a new sponsorship of another child. It has been fantastic watching Wichelanda grow from year to year. As she grew older, it was incredible writing back and forth. We learned about her culture, her responsibilities, her love of Christ and her desire to meet us.
Craig and I talked many times about how wonderful it would be to travel to meet her in Haiti. Compassion had established a program to allow the sponsors to travel to meet their children. We would have loved to have had this opportunity. Three years into our marriage, we decided to begin our family. This postponed our dreams of traveling to Haiti....but those dreams were not forgotten.
"Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14
We continued to communicate with Wichelanda and had many conversations about missions over the next 6 years. With our young family, we didn't feel that the time was yet here to journey on a mission trip. So we decided to sponsor another child through Compassion International. This new child is named Cyusa Didier and he lives in Rwanda. He was 8 years old when we began sponsoring him. He also has a mother and father and had seven siblings at the time our sponsorship began. He lives in an area that is profoundly impacted by AIDS and HIV. It has been such a joy interacting with him through letters over the last 6 years.
We continued to talk about mission trips. Ideally, Craig and I wanted to go together so we could grow and experience those life-changing events together...however...we couldn't see any way for this to occur...and if something would happen to both of us...our children would be orphaned. This was not something we would consider.
The summer of 2009, Craig and I had a lengthy discussion about potentially taking our whole family on a mission trip together. It is amazing how God works in and through us...but also amazing how He can use other things to support His will in our lives. It wasn't exactly a burning bush...but right after Craig brought up the idea, the radio began playing a song about missions in Africa! What!? Craig then shared that he felt that we should go to Africa and see Cyusa Didier in Rwanda. This is putting it mildly, but I was very resistant to the idea. All of the reasons NOT to go on a mission trip as a family were easily coming to mind. I guess even our "burning bush" was not effective for me. (I am sorry Lord.)
Before bed that night...a rift had formed between us and I suggested that we pray for clarity. I really felt that one of us must be listening to the devil if we were feeling led in such different directions. I just didn't know which one of us that was. We prayed and amazingly the tension subsided.
I have always been an early riser and woke long before Craig that next morning. It was long before my eyes were even open that I realized that the Lord had spoken to me directly! I had a verse on my mind immediately!
"Go and know that I am with you always...even unto the ends of the earth!"
I had no idea where this verse was in the Bible or how it could have come into my mind apart from knowing that the Lord had answered our prayers from the night before and spoke straight to my heart. I recall that my first thought was, "My goodness...really God?" I crawled from bed with tears in my eyes and grabbed my Bible. I flipped open my Bible just allowing the Lord to direct me to the passage that was appropriate. I opened my Bible into the Psalms and read a passage about trusting the Lord and finding a refuge in Him in our time of trial. Whew! What a moment that was. I began to feel all of my worries and fears begin to melt away. A sense of complete peace settled over me. I had to trust in the Lord. It was such a blessing to tell my husband that my fears had subsided and I was trusting in the verse that God had provided for me!
It was two months later as I was preparing for a garage sale that I came across a plaque that my Grandpa and Grandma Getchell had given me for my confirmation. It took my breath away! There it was again! "Go and know that I am with you always....even unto the ends of the earth." It was paraphrased from Matthew 28:19-20. The seed had been planted 20 years prior to my asking the Lord for direction. I used to have the plaque on my wall. Amazing how the verse would resurface 20 years later and begin to lead our family into unfamiliar territory!
We began to search for an agency that would take us as a family to Africa. We had roadblocks at every turn. Nothing seemed to pan out and disappointment and questions surfaced. It was at this point that I shared with Craig that I really felt led to Haiti...but he still felt led to Africa...so we continued to search. When more searching led to further roadblocks, we re-evaluated this. In a single day, we received a phone call, email and text message all informing us of a small mission organization called Mission Haiti that was started in Tea, South Dakota. God's message was clear. The detour was evident and Haiti was on the radar.
We researched Mission Haiti and immediately felt at ease. This organization was started by family and when we spoke with Pam, the founder, she was very receptive to us bringing our entire family along to Haiti! We filled out the paperwork and were ready for the adventure! We received confirmation of our trip on January 11th, 2010 and our travel dates were in early June. www.mission-haiti.org
The very next day Haiti was devastated by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6. I swear we were in shock. Not only were we devastated that our trip was likely going to be cancelled...we were also fearful for Wichelanda's life. The footage of the rubble was breathtaking and morbid on so many levels. Tears were often just below the surface. About one week later, we received a letter from Wichelanda (written one month earlier) informing us that she had relocated to Port-au-Prince for schooling purposes. The epicenter of the earthquake! I felt nauseous and couldn't even watch the coverage of the earthquake without getting emotional. We were praying continually but found out that the older children were typically in class at the time of the earthquake. We were devastated, but even though all information pointed towards the demise of our beautiful sponsored child...we continued to pray.
In the meantime, we contacted Pam and withdrew our family from the June mission trip. She felt this was wise as well. Craig informed her that he was willing to travel to Haiti on any timeline to help with anything they might need. He was quickly slotted for a "rebuilding" trip in early March 2010.
Time flew by and we began to prepare for his trip. He was very excited...and I was so excited for him. I would hold down the fort and he would go and do the work of the Lord in Haiti. We hoped to hear news on Wichelanda but none came. I contacted Compassion and they confirmed that no news had been received.
(The information in these news stories are a bit "dramatized." There was no rescue mission to find Wichelanda, but "whatever...")
Jan. 14, 2010 http://www.keloland.com/NewsDetail6162.cfm?Id=95208
Mar. 31, 2010 http://www.keloland.com/NewsDetail6162.cfm?ID=98490
Craig left for his trip and all went well on the home-front. The kids missed their daddy but most days went by smoothly. Craig's journey to Haiti proved to be a huge blessing. I am not going to recount his entire story...because it is his story to share...but I will say that it was profound and he was forever changed.
While he was gone, the girls and I worked on a project for a school activity. We researched Haiti in the process and began to understand some of the reasons behind the state of the country. Decades ago, the Haitian people were taken as slaves from Africa by the French and relocated to Haiti. Poverty is prevalent and the Haitian people are the poorest third world country in the western hemisphere...but the joy and strength inherent in these people despite their circumstances is unexplainable. All of the stories Craig shared upon his return were evident of this.