Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 23rd- Gotcha Day

This past Sunday was the one year anniversary of the "Coq Chante 6" coming home. It seems like so much longer than a year some days. It has been a long very busy year. But we are all still in awe that they are here and got to spend some sweet time over the past weeks thinking back to this time last year and seeing all the miracles that God performed to get them here.

Last year:
From the time we found out that Odette was ok on January 14th to day the day she came home were so busy with phone calls, TV interviews, newspaper interviews, trip to Nashville, printing copies of all the kids papers that were destroyed in the earthquake, and trying to figure out how and when (and if) we were going to get our children home. It is hard to believe it was only 11 days between the earthquake and the time they landed in Knoxville.

The day of January 21st was such a crazy day. Around lunchtime on that day I got a call from Kevin that I needed to head to the church office. I was pulling out of the parking lot of the church office then so I turned my car around & headed back inside. When he got there he explained that the original plan for Andy to go with him to pick up the girls and Wousamy couldn't happen because there was not room on the plane for both of them. He had heard from Rhonda at Senator Corkers office that things were looking good and he may be able to go pick the kids up the following day. We spent the afternoon trying to figure out all the details and get plane tickets booked. It was such a day of up & downs. One minute the plan was on & the next we didn't think it would work & then the next it was back on. In the end God showed himself in a big way & Kevin was headed to Fort Lauderdale with all of our paperwork in his hands and big hopes that this really was going to work. (For a reminder of some of the miracles read the article in my post on February 25, 2010).

The next day I got up & got busy cleaning. Sometime that morning or late the night before we found out that one parent for each child had to meet them in Fort Lauderdale. Andy was so sweet to let me go. My family spent the day helping me quickly clean the house (well they did most of the work as I was on the computer and phone trying to get info to all the families and trying to get our flights worked out to Fort Lauderdale). If you went back and read the article you would see that we were not even sure that this was really going to happen that day or not so we were waiting until the last minute to get tickets booked. I remember getting a call from Gina saying that we needed to be at the airport in less than 30 minutes. At that point I had not taken a shower, packed or anything. I got ready really quickly and my dad drove me (very quickly) to the airport. When we got to the airport to get our tickets we found out that another flight had come in late & they had put them all on the plane we were going to get tickets on & there were no more seats available. After some scrabbling around we found out there was a late flight (after 10:00 if I remember right) leaving from Atlanta that night getting into Fort Lauderdale after midnight. So we rented a van and headed to Atlanta. Also this day there were many people at the church office making calls to get us another plane to bring us home. At that point Brian, Kevin and the kids had a plane to bring them home but the rest of the parents would have to take a commercial flight home & we would have completely missed their homecoming. Again God is still in the miracle business and worked out all of the details for us.

We took a shuttle to the hotel late that night. I don't know that any of us slept more than a few hours. That morning as Angie, Carol, Leah and I got ready I remember it being kind of a quiet morning. I think we all wanted to be excited but didn't want to get our hopes up even at that point just in case something didn't go as planned. We ate breakfast at the hotel and then took a shuttle to the airport. It was the part of the airport where private planes land. We waited nervously and kept running outside to see if they were landing. We were told that they were landing & although they would have preferred us to stay inside we all ran outside & looked through the fence for their plane. Not knowing exactly which one was theirs I got lots of pictures & video of other planes landing. Finally they landed and out steps precious Wousamy's feet. The moment we waited for finally happened- they really were on American soil. Since they still had to go through processing and we could not go in with them all we could do was scream & cheer from the fence (we eventually got in trouble for being loud & taking pictures so we headed inside). We kept peeking at them through the window hoping to get a glimpse (any one looking at us from the outside that day probably thought we were crazy). They had us fill out some paperwork and then had the 6 of us go next door to the lobby where they would bring them when they were finished with paperwork. I don't know how long we had to wait but it seemed like an eternity. From Andy's posts from last year it looks like they landed about 11:40 and there is a picture of Odette in immigration at 12:40 & then our plane took off around 2:30. After waiting a while we finally saw them walking our way (we were told to stand on the sidewalk and not go any further). After hugs, tears and phone calls to the mommies & daddies at home we headed inside where the girls were treated to popcorn, their first Krispy Kreme donuts & lemonade. They all changed clothes and we just waited until it the Pilot plane headed from Knoxville with Russell Biven & Erynn Donavon on board landed to take us home. We taught the girls to say "Let's Go Home" in English & soon we were headed home on two planes to Knoxville. They all loved the plane ride and Odette spend most of the flight looking out the window and singing. The whole flight was surreal, we kept asking each other if this really was happening. Our plan was the second to land in Knoxville. We were greeted by reporters, cameras and around 200 friends and family. Talk about overwhelming for these kids (and their parentes) but I would not have traded it for anything. After all of the heartache that came from the earthquake something wonderful was happening that could have only been orchestrated by God himself and I love that so many people wanted to be a part of it. That day Odette was reunited with her daddy & Taylor and got to meet Abby & Molly for the first time & the rest of our families. It was an amazing day that I will never forget.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Remembering Atanie

Atanie touched the lives of everyone that she met and I am blessed to be one of the people that got to love on her during her short life. She will never be forgotten!

Go the the link below for a video of Atanie

Taylor had to write a poem for school and choose to write about Atanie. . .

Atanie Laurient

She came into this world May 8, 2005
She was born into the Laurient family in Haiti
Atanie was a daughter
She was also a sister and friend

Her laugh was contagious
She could light up the night sky with her smile
When you looked at her it felt like you were looking at Jesus himself
She made you happy when you were down

Atanie was very easy to love
She loved everyone too
She meant a lot to everyone
Sadly, she was called by the Lord and fell asleep January 12, 2010

Remembering January 12th

There are certain things in my life that I remember exactly where I was when I heard them, like I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the call/word that each of my grandparents had died. January 12th is one of those days for me. . .

We arrived back in Knoxville around 10:30pm on January 11th. After a late night of sharing pictures and stories of my trip with Andy I got a few hours of sleep before starting my day on Tuesday taking girls to school, running errands, getting a haircut, picking the girls up from school, etc. all day thinking there would be time for sleeping and really processing my trip in the days to come (not knowing that real sleep would not happen for days or weeks). Around 5 o'clock that afternoon I was laying in bed watching TV when I got a call from my dad. He told me my uncle Tennel had called and said he saw on the news that an earthquake had hit Port-au-Prince minutes before. I was hit with immediate panic thinking that Odette was in PAP that day with her parents getting DNA testing for her adoption. Not wanting to let Taylor know what was going on I thanked my dad and said I was going to get on the computer and see if I could learn anything else. I went straight upstairs and called Kevin Rudd to see if he knew anything about the earthquake and also to see how we can find out if Odette is ok. He said while we were in Haiti Eddy had said that it was not necessary for Odette to go the city because they had already taken blood from her during one of her medical exams. I was very relieved- still worried about our friends and Odette's parents in PAP but relieved that my little girl was ok. Other than news reports throughout the evening we had no word from Haiti. All we knew at the time was a horrible earthquake hit the city and knew nothing about the rest of the country. Knowing that the orphanage is a 3 hour drive away from the city we kept assuring our girls that we were sure that everything was fine since they were so far away from the city. Going to sleep was hard that night with worry for our friends but sleep finally came a little before midnight. Then shortly after midnight I woke up & heard something, it took me a few seconds to realize that it was Andy crying loudly from the kitchen. I ran into the kitchen to find him crying and hugging Brian Lloyd. I remember just standing there looking at Brian until he finally said "The orphanage has collapsed, Atanie did not make it out, but the other girls are ok" I fell apart immediately (I am crying now as I type this) after a few minutes he looked at me and said "Odette is not at the orphanage and she went to the city with her parents and we don't know where she is or if she is ok". A minute after learning that this precious girl that I love and left in Haiti the day before had not made it out of the orphanage alive I was told that we didn't know if our daughter was alive or dead. I remember having to sit down on the kitchen stool before I fell down. During all this Abby woke up and wandered in the kitchen and Brian sweetly sent her back to bed and luckily she went. I'm surprised that we didn't wake up everyone in the house. We went upstairs to Andy's computer room and sat for a couple of hours as Brian tried over and over to get through on his phone to Haiti. Kevin was trying the same from his house. Finally Brian headed home to keep trying and we went to bed and crying and praying and sleeping for a few minutes. After a sleepless night we got a call from Brian at 5:50 telling us that Eddy's wife had a 20 second conversation with Eddy and he said that "we are ok". I held on to the hope the rest of the morning that "we" meant Odette was with him. Then at 7:00 Brian showed up on our doorstep again to tell us that Odette rode a tap-tap with her parents earlier that afternoon and she was not with Eddy. We woke up the girls for school hoping that we would seem as normal as possible. I was ok until Taylor started talking about Atanie and laughing about a video I had of her on my camera (as this point the girls knew nothing about Atanie or the orphanage). I had to leave the room quickly for a good cry. Andy took the girls to school with me and I called their teachers out in the hall to tell them what we knew so far and that we were not telling the girls in hopes that we would have good news about Odette by the time we picked them up from school. As we pulled away from school that day I called and told my dad and told him to spread the word because I couldn't say it out loud one more time. Now wanting to be alone I went to work with Andy and sat with him while he worked. Later that day he went with me to pick the girls up and we headed home to tell them what we knew. Luckily Andy was the one to finally sit them down and tell them because I had no words. He started by telling them about the orphanage and told them Atanie was gone. I have never seen them all so upset (later Abby said when I was talking about Atanie- "Atanie's dead"- I guess she did not understand at first and then the tears started up again). A few minutes later he told them what little we knew about Odette then we all just sat and cried for a long time. I think it was the hardest thing we have ever had to tell our girls. Taylor especially had a hard time , not only did she not know if her sister was ok she had just found out that a little girl she fell in love with in November was gone.

That night we had a prayer service at Powell church. I was so touched by the outpouring of blessing from our family and friends that night. It was such a hard but special night for our church family and I will never forget it. Wednesday January 13th was the longest hardest day of my life. We had another long sleepless night & got the girls up and ready for school. All of them cried not wanting to go. Taylor had a spelling bee that day that she was so excited about before but now she didn't want to go through with it. We went to the spelling bee that day and then I went home for a while. I headed to school to eat lunch with Abby & Molly and when I was signing in the office I missed a call from Kevin, I immediately called back and he answered and said "your baby is ok". The best words ever spoken! I told everyone in the office the good news and then headed to the gym where her class was to tell her then I got to go tell Abby & Molly at lunch. I spent the entire lunch period making calls and sending texts that God is good. We found out that she was ok, she was with her parents but Eddy & Ricot were not able to reach her yet.

Later we learned that she and her family started walking a couple of hours after the earthquake and finally made it to Coq Chante the following day. It still amazes me that God gave my little girl (who now complains about walking down the street) the ability to walk thru the city and up into the mountains for an entire day. Since Odette has been home she has shared over the months a lot about her experience during the earthquake. Those images and experiences are never far from her thoughts. I can't imagine what all she saw and heard in those hours following the earthquake. She said right before the earthquake she had gone with her cousin to the market to buy food and water for dinner. She said they had just arrived back at the house where they were staying when the earthquake hit. She said they didn't know what it was but they just started running until they got outside. The house right next door where her Aunt, Uncle and cousin live collapsed with them still inside. Hearing that made me realize how close we came to loosing her. She said after the earthquake her dad and brother ran to the school that her sister Monette was at to find her. Part of the building had collapsed but she was safe. Soon after they returned they made the decision to start walking home. I won't share too much on here because that will one day be her story to tell but she had shared with us that she saw too many dead bodies to count, heard screams and crying for hours, saw a few babies being born & tells of one little boy younger that her that had lost his entire family and was laying on his mom's dead body in the street crying. She saw things that I can't imagine seeing as an adult and trying to process. Please pray for her as she continues to sort through her experiences from that day and pray that the passport and citizenship process goes quickly so she can return to Haiti and have some closure so she can continue in her healing process.

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 4-11, 2010

This January for me will be spent remembering all the one year anniversaries of last January. My last January trip Jan 4-11, the earthquake on the 12th, the waiting to hear if Odette was ok or not, finally getting the call on the 14th that she was ok, the craziness of the next 9 days until she was finally home on January 23rd, and the list goes on.

I wanted to write down some things that I remember from my last trip to Haiti before I forget it (luckily the pictures I have help jog my memory).

We flew out of Knoxville on January 4th. This was the smallest team that I have ever gone with and was also the first trip that had no new people on it. There were only 9 people on this trip but 9 very excited people that could not wait to love on their Haitian family and to have Christmas with 18 precious girls. We left Knoxville and flew to Miami and then on to Port-au-Prince. Right now I can't remember all the reasons for the delays but it seems like there were delayed flights, and even a flat tire on the way to the orphanage so by the time we got to the mountains it was really late and we learned most of the girls were in bed. I was so anxious to see Odette because I hadn't been back since I left her on May 28th. The decision was made for the adopting parents to ride in Ricot's truck to the orphanage to pick up Benita, Valancia, Islande, and Odette. We stopped on the side of the road in the dark of night to pick Wousamy up on our way there. This was Karen's first time seeing him in about a year and a half. He was a little confused at first but soon very happy to be in his mommy's arms! When we got the orphanage it was very different that normal. The 18 girls were not standing on the front steps singing because it was so late. We went upstairs to find some awake and others asleep. I loved on some girls and then went to find Odette. Her room was dark and she was fast asleep. When I woke her up she started crying and hugged me for the longest time. After a short time at the orphanage we loaded up in Ricot's truck and headed out of Coq Chante. On the way out his truck got stuck in the mud so we had to start walking to Camatin in the dark and the mud from all the rain that they had the week before. Someone came in the big truck to pick us up so we didn't have to walk the whole way (which was great because I was not very prepared for the walk & was wearing my Tevas). We stayed up for a while playing with the girls and although Odette was happy to see me she was not acting like herself & she had a fever.

some picts from the first night

We woke up the next morning to learn that Odette wasn't feeling good when we got there because she had chicken pox and the first ones were just starting to appear. Chicken pox had been going through the orphanage and about half of the girl had gotten them over the last two months. I hated that she was sick but it was so sweet of God to let me be there when she was sick to help take care of her. After staying a while at Camatin that morning we loaded to up head to Coq Chante to see the other girls. We spent the day playing and loving on girls and other kids from the community that have become so special to each of us.

2nd day pictures

Lauren & Islande





Saintemene and Guerline


Ryan & Benita on the truck


Ricienna (love this picture!)


Wousamy and his brother Samuel

sweet kids from Coq Chante community

feeding them peanut butter wraps


Odette opening her present from Mamaw and Papaw (the girls loved the wrapping paper and used it the next day to wrap other things in)

Valancia on the roof at Coq Chante

(I went to the bathroom at Coq Chante and when I looked up my girl had written her name on the door)

boys playing soccer outside the orphanage

January 4-11 continued

The next two days (the 6th and 7th) were spent hanging out at the orphanage and going on walks. The guys on the trip spent some time repairing things that needed to be fixed and put in a door going to the roof. We had originally planned on repainting the girls rooms and a few other things but didn't end up having the money to do it (we would realize in the weeks to follow that it was God's plan for us to just spend quality time with the girls at the orphanage and other friends around Coq Chante because all the other stuff would soon fall with the building on Jan. 12th). Because Odette was sick and couldn't go on walks this week she asked me to stay behind with her. So I spent a lot of time this week with her and the little girls while the big girls went on walks with the rest of the team. It is now some of my very favorite memories of all my times in Haiti. I had a lot of time to pray, think, and spend some one-on-one time with the girls. We laughed and talked a lot on this trip (well as much as I can talk with my limited Creole).

Odette helping Malange wash her hair

Benita's smile is my favorite!!

The next few pictures are of some sweet boys & a couple of girls that live in the Coq Chante community, the ladies on the trip spent some time one afternoon giving them snacks and loving on them. They loved having their picture taken.

Lucas and Wousamy

Madame Gaspard giving Odette a "bath" with something the ladies had cooked all day to help her chicken pox


Lucas and Yollande



Tiffani and Guerline


Karen and Stefania (Wousamy's sister)


sweet Atanie picture

Atanie blowing bubbles (she would say "Allyson- watch blow bubble")



Samantha helping Saintemene write (she loves her sister)

Kevin and Benita


Valancia, Malange and their little brother

Milando- Benita's brother

Milanda (Milando's twin- you can tell she has chicken pox too)

Benita and one of her brothers

Benita's youngest brother

Benita's mom spent part of the afternoon with us and brought along some of Benita's brothers & sisters. After this trip Milando will always hold a special place in my heart. He spent a long time grinning at me and then finally came over, curled up in my lap and went to sleep. I keep a picture of him on my refrigerator so I can see that sweet smile everyday and I pray for him often.