>[The following story will appear in the February 10 issue of Christian Renewal.]
Treasures from Haiti
by Glenda Mathes
When Les and Tracy Fuller’s church offered to begin a prayer initiative in the hope of jump-starting the couple’s stalled adoption process, the Fullers chose January 24 as the start date since that would be the birthday of one of the two Haitian children they were adopting.
They never imagined that God, in His marvelous providence, would bring those children into their homes before that birthday.
The Fullers have a daughter, Samantha, and a son, Grant, and could have had more biological children, but thought it would be wonderful to give a third-world child their love and care. Several years ago, they hoped to adopt a little girl from Romania, but when that door closed the couple put aside their adoption dream.
About two years ago, Tracy’s friend, Andrea Vanderhoff, asked if the Fullers would consider adopting children from Haiti. The Vanderhoffs were working toward adopting siblings Roselande and Carl, whose cousins were in the same small orphanage. The two cousins, Roselaure and Kenson, were siblings and the four children were close to each other. The Vanderhoffs thought it would be great to keep the children in the same community and within the same circle of friends.
Tracy says her initial thought was, “No way! I want a little girl from Romania!” But she was immediately reminded of something that she hadn’t before given much thought. When Tracy was expecting Grant, three-year-old Samantha would often say, “I want a black baby!” After Grant was born, Samantha changed her mantra to: “We need to adopt a black baby!” Samantha is now eleven, but had continued to say that to her mom on at least an annual basis.
Then Tracy remembered that Grant (now 8) has often told her, “Mom, we need more kids in this family.”
Tracy asked Andrea’s husband, Dave, to give her a picture of the children, thinking she would see the picture, there would be no emotional attachment, and that would be the end of that.
When she saw the picture of the four children, without even knowing which ones were available for adoption, she immediately felt strong love for two of them. She showed the picture to her husband and asked him what he thought.
“These two have the same look in their eyes as Samantha and Grant,” he said, pointing to the two she already loved.
Samantha, who hadn’t heard the previous conversation and knew nothing about the adoption discussion, entered the room and looked at the picture.
“Oh, they’re orphans! I want those two,” she said, pointing to the same two children her parents had chosen; the two of the four children who were available for adoption.
Realizing the addition of two children would mean huge changes for their family, the Fullers decided to pray and fast for one week before making a decision. Samantha and Grant decided to give up sugar and TV for their fast, resisting stiff temptations to stick to their commitment. The family designated the next Saturday morning for prayer and discussion to make their decision together.
Tracy explains that since her college days, she had experienced a recurring dream of trying to drive across a bridge when her vehicle plunges into an icy river. After each of her children was born, the dream included her efforts to rescue them.
The Friday night before the family’s decision day, Tracy had the dream again. Only for the first time, Les appeared in it. This time all four family members were in the vehicle, but they were pulled from the icy water by the two Haitian children!
The family began the arduous adoption process. By July of 2008, they had completed the necessary paperwork and sent it off to Haiti. For weeks that stretched into months, nothing appeared to be happening. Tracy became very discouraged, but God placed on her heart these words from Isaiah 45: “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness….” (2-3, NIV).
During 2009, the Fullers visited Roselaure and Kenson twice in Haiti; once in April and again in October, when Samantha traveled with them.
In spite of those visits, the paperwork was not moving and the family grew increasingly discouraged. That’s one reason they were elated with the proffered prayer initiative at Third Reformed Church (RCA) in Pella, IA. Another reason was that the church had done the same thing about a year earlier for a family whose Haitian adoption process had been stalled, and that little boy was welcomed into his new family just two months after the church began praying.
The Fullers had celebrated Samantha’s ninth birthday with a special party and Tracy had long hoped to do the same for Roselaure’s ninth birthday. Since that now appeared impossible, the Fullers settled for choosing her birthday as the date to begin the church prayer program.
Before the formal prayer program began, however, a massive earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. The Fullers anxiously waited to hear if their children were still alive. The orphanage was in Port-au-Prince—just ten miles from the epicenter—where damage was catastrophic and the death toll horrendous.
Their friends, the Vanderhoffs, also waited for word about their children. And another Pella couple, Matt and Mandy Poulter, waited for news of the daughter they were adopting from the same orphanage.
The orphanage director was the Fuller’s usual contact person, but he was in Florida at the time of the earthquake.
That was when God threw an amazing twist into events. ABC News picked up the Poulter story. On Thursday, January 14, the Poulters were notified via Skype communications from an ABC News team that they were standing outside the orphanage. A little later, they learned that all nine children in the small orphanage were still alive.
The Pella couples went into high gear on Friday, trying to contact politicians in the hope of expediting the process and getting their children out of a dangerous situation. They felt an increasing sense of urgency as the situation in Port-au-Prince continued deteriorating. As the day wore on, pressure grew since official offices would be closed the next day, Saturday, and the next, Sunday, as well as the following day because Monday, January 18, was a national holiday. But all Friday, the couples felt as if they were drowning in what Tracy calls “an endless sea of red tape.”
On Saturday they heard that some Haitian children were receiving hand-written visas and being evacuated. On Saturday evening, the Poulters decided that they would go to Haiti. They got tickets to fly out early the next morning for the Dominican Republic.
Their early morning flight out of Des Moines was delayed until after 3:00 pm due to fog. ABC News met the Poulters at the airport in the Dominican Republic and flew them by helicopter into Haiti.
Monday morning Tracy received a call from Mandy Poulter.
“There’s someone here who wants to speak to you,” Mandy said.
Tracy heard Roselaure’s tiny voice say, “‘ello, Mama?” Then Kenson greeted her the same way. And then the line went dead. The Vanderhoffs were able to have a longer conversation with their children and learned that they had been bathed and were eating spaghetti before heading out to the US Embassy.
At 5:00 pm another call came through to Tracy. This time Mandy told her to immediately email authority for the Poulters to travel with the Fuller’s children. Tracy never had a chance to ask her many questions because that was the end of the call. In the meantime, the orphanage director called the Vanderhoffs, screaming, “Where are my kids?” But that call also was cut off.
“We had no idea what was going on,” says Tracy. “We were watching the news, just like everyone else in America, when we saw a story that five kids had received visas and were waiting at the airport to leave, but that the orphanage director was questioning their departure. We were frantic all night.”
On Tuesday morning, the Fullers received a call that the Poulters were in Florida with the five children. They were at a Red Cross unit, supplied with food and water, and were resting on cots until they could get a flight to Iowa.
A little later, Tracy received a call that Pella Corp was sending a corporate jet from Nevada to Florida and would bring the children directly to Pella’s Municipal Airport.
That evening, the little brick building at Pella’s airport was packed with adopting family members and dozens of supportive people from the community.
“They arrived just after the fog lifted and before the ice storm hit,” Tracy relates.
Aside from Iowa’s weather, the timing of the children’s arrival was providential in other ways. Haiti suffered a severe aftershock on Wednesday that caused additional damage in Port-au-Prince. Also on Wednesday, Kenson’s temperature spiked to 104.2. A lung x-ray indicated that his lungs were full of dust, causing pneumonia-like symptoms. Had he still been in Haiti, he may not have been able to obtain the medical care he urgently needed.
As I write this, little Maya Esther Poulter (4); Roselande (7) and Carl (4) Vanderhoff; and Roselaure (8) and Kenson (6) Fuller are safely sleeping in cozy beds in warm homes in Pella, IA. Four days ago, they huddled in a damaged orphanage in a very dangerous Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Tomorrow is January 24, 2010, and it will be Roselaure’s ninth birthday.
The passage God placed on Tracy’s heart so many months ago takes on new meaning in wake of the Haitian earthquake; when God leveled the mountains, broke down bronze gates, and cut through iron bars to bring the Fullers their Haitian treasures.