Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Odette


Today is Odette's 11th birthday. I am thankful beyond words today that for the first August 20th since I met her I could walk in her room, wake her up & tell her happy birthday for the first time in person. The last two years have been really hard for me on her birthday but today we are rejoicing that she is finally here for us to celebrate her life. Andy & I are taking her Panera for lunch at school (her choice) then I am taking Odette and Taylor to get a pedicure for their birthdays after school (Odette has been asking for one for months and I kept telling her maybe for her birthday so her first question today was "can I get my feet done today"- I think she will love her surprise!) then she picked Calhouns for the whole family to go eat at tonight for her date night. Tomorrow night we are having a combined family birthday party for Odette & Taylor at my mom & dad's farm.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thankful

So many things this week reminded me how thankful I am to God that he moved mountains to bring our little girl and some of her friends home and he still continues to be so faithful.

*On Sunday I sat in the first "Haiti Sunday" service at church since Odette came home with her cuddled up beside me watching the videos and like in Haiti her wiping the tears from my face as I cried. I also looked over and two of her Haitian friends are sitting in the floor next to us & then on the other side of us is Wousamy who for the first time since the first trip in 2003 is NOT in the Haiti video up on the screen. GOD IS GOOD!!!

*I am thankful that she trusts me enough to share hard things to hear about her life in Haiti (but then she worries about me when I get upset and doesn't want to make me sad). I told her that even if it makes me sad I still want to know it all so I can share that part of her life with her.

*I am thankful for good news today that we can start the process to finish her adoption and she should be legally ours in a month or two. We also found out that the bill to make all the Humanitarian Parole kids eligible for faster citizenship status has passed the house & the senate and now only needs the President's signature. From what I understand when the adoption is complete we can apply for her citizenship and after it is processed and approved she will be a US citizen and we can apply for her passport (before you had to wait 2 years to even apply for citizenship). I am thankful that I could give my little girl some good news today and if all goes well the two of us can be on a trip in early 2011. Join us in praying for a smooth and speedy final adoption process for all the girls and Wousamy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

6 months ago today

Six months ago today God made it possible for our little girl to come home along with 5 of her friends. I am still amazed and overwhelmed thinking about the miracle that God worked to get them here in His perfect timing. Out of one of the greatest tragedies to happen to Haiti He not only kept them safe, He was faithful to finish the work that we started by saying yes to bringing them home.

I am also amazed that 6 months have already gone by. The days have often gone by slowly but the time still is passing quickly. I can honestly say these 6 months have been some of the best & hardest 6 months of our lives. During the hard days I was often wishing for the days with newborn twins because that seemed a lot easier. Having a new ten year old is work! I love her more than anything and could not be happier that she is finally here but some days are really hard. Luckily as time goes on there are more happy ones than hard ones and we are thankful that now it is usually just hard hours instead of full days. We have been really proud the last few weeks of her ability to "choose to be happy" pretty quickly after being mad instead of choosing to stay mad for the majority of the day. Good days at our house with her are great and so much fun. She makes us laugh all the time, she so is a Coleman girl!!!!

It is definitely a learning process for all of us. The best way I can describe it is she is like a toddler that is testing boundaries to see what is ok and what is not. You wouldn't think that you would have to tell a 10 year old that is not ok to write on themselves with Sharpies but you do. I don't think I have said "we write on paper" so much since Molly's preschool phase of writing on everything except paper.

I have never been so happy for summer to come. I felt like I could finally breathe for the first time in months. I just wanted all of my girls at home with me to enjoy them with nothing scheduled (except Sunday mornings). We have a summer off from school, piano, soccer, 252 practice, etc. We have enjoyed staying up later (ok so we wish the girls would go to bed a little bit earlier) and have really enjoyed sleeping in. We have spent time at the pool, outside, shopping, watching movies, a lot of time playing with friends during the day and even some sleepovers.

The 4 girls are getting along great (well lets say they act like sisters all of the time). The honeymoon period has definitely worn off. When Odette first came Abby & Molly thought she could do no wrong. Abby said the other day in the car when we were by ourselves, "Mommy, I thought that I would never get mad at Odette, but now that I do I guess that just means we really are sisters!". They all love each other one minute and are mad at each other the next minute.

Taylor and Odette decided that they were ready for twin beds in their room instead of sharing a bed (well Taylor decided and talked Odette into it). Odette said at first that she would not get two beds because Taylor is messy and she was not going to "clean" both of their beds each day. Agreeing on twin bedding that they both liked was a big challenge. But they finally decided and we got the beds put up 2 weeks ago. The girls are helping Andy now build headboards for them with shelves on them. Odette has decided though that she doesn't like to sleep alone, even if Taylor is 2 feet away. So most nights Abby sleeps with her. They have all four spent most of the summer sleeping in Abby & Molly's twin beds so now they have just moved into Taylor & Odette's beds. It is sweet that they want to sleep together but it's making the going to sleep time much longer. I dread school starting back!

Odette has trouble sleeping a lot. She has bad dreams about the earthquake often. She doesn't talk about them a lot but will tell me that is what the dreams are about if I ask her. She still has a lot of fears, more lately it seems, some she admits some you can just see. When a big truck goes up our street and kind of shakes the house she gets a nervous look on her face. She now wants a night light in her room to sleep with because her room scares her. Driving under underpasses scares her especially if we stop under one. She is also saying that she doesn't want to go to Fountain City Elementary for school & I just figured out it is the building that scares her because it is so big and old. We have assured her that the school is over 75 years old and nothing has ever happened to it. I am sure she will be better once she is there ever day again but now that is a very real fear for her.

Speaking of school she is SO excited about going back. Last year she only went half days until the last few days of school we let her go a full day just to go through the lunch, playground and pick-up routine. She loved school by the end of the year and was so upset it was finished. The one thing (besides the building) that she is nervous about is that she does not know anyone that will be in fifth grade this year. One thing you can be praying for is that she makes some new friends very quickly. I think that will be a big part of her continuing to love school and her desire to learn. Her school is great and they gave us math workbooks to work on over the summer starting with a kindergarten level up to third grade. She loves doing them and I think it will be a big help this year in school. The plan is that she will go to 5th grade this year and when school first starts they will do some more testing with her to see which math and reading level she is at. So she will be in her own classroom the majority of the day but during math and reading she will go to whichever grade level she is at and will sit in on their class. She will also have ELL class for a hour a day instead of 30 minutes.

Her English amazes us! She speaks English 99% of the time to us. I told her yesterday that she needs to speak to me more in Creole because I am forgetting everything I learned when she came. Her comprehension is also great. At first we would speak in smaller sentences or phrases to her to make sure that she understood us but now we can have complete conversations and she understands it all. Her grammar is a work in progress. She still sounds like a toddler saying "I want to go to she house". But that has progressed because she always used me instead of I before. Now it is working on when to say her instead of she, etc. She is so much more confident than when she first came.

The Monday after school got out we took our first trip to Disney as a family of 6. She was really against going at first. I LOVE Disney if you didn't know. Andy and I started dating there 20 years ago on a band trip in high school. The last time we went as a family I had just gotten back from Haiti and met Odette for the first time. I spent the whole trip wondering "what would the girls at the orphanage think of Disney, would Odette like this ride?" So since we had made the decision to adopt I couldn't wait to take her to Disney. Because our income tax check was bigger than expected we figured we better go while we had the money. Odette could not wrap her head around what vacation would look like. She kept saying "I know it will be fun but I don't want to go". But one day she asked if the room we were staying in would have lots of other people in it and if we had to eat with a bunch of people that we didn't know. We realized then it was not Disney that she was against but the unknown. She kept saying that she would just stay with Mamaw or Kelley. I told her that I would miss her too bad if I left her for 7 days & her response was "Mommy- I lived in Haiti for 10 years". Oh well, I guess she is right but I told her that I was sad for the year and a half I knew her and she wasn't here. She also said that she would miss Leah too much. In the end she finally went & she ended up having a great time. From our trips to Dollywood we knew that she was all about trill rides. The faster the better. She loved Expedition Everest, Rock 'n Roller Coaster, Test Track, and Space Mountain and she also loved some slower rides, her favorites- It's a Small World, Mickeys Philharmonic, Carousel of Progress, Toy Story Mania, Buzz Lightyear, and Peter Pan. Things this trip that made us laugh- she complained a lot about the heat & also would not use the restroom at the rest stop because it smelled bad. HELLO- the girl grew up in Haiti which smells not so pretty and is very hot (especially since she never had air conditioning before). I think she is ready for fall and winter which surprises us since we thought she would hate the cold. Also on vacation she decided that the fold- out couch was uncomfortable so she slept all week in the chair (I think part of that was to see if it would make us mad but we decided we had to pick our battles so we let her sleep in the chair). All in all it was a good vacation and we were glad to finally experience it with all our girls. But we are planning a long parents only long weekend in Disney as soon as we can afford it.

She now has decided that she loves the "cinema" and wants to go all the time. So far this summer we have seen Toy Story 3, Karate Kid and two free movies at Regal on Tuesday mornings. Karate Kid made her laugh so hard in parts that I am sure they heard her in the next theater. Wow that girl is LOUD!!!

She has told us that American food is much better and the only thing she really liked in Haiti was white rice with black bean sauce on the side. She likes most everything here (although most things she says she likes a "little bit"), but her new favorite is chicken casserole. She knows we only have it when daddy is not going to be home for dinner because he doesn't eat it so now she asks now "when does Daddy have a meeting all night" because she knows I will fix chicken casserole for her.

She talks daily about going back to Haiti. She really misses her family, her friends and her country. I asked early on if she wanted to go stay and she said "NO, I want to go visit then I am coming home". I love that she knows where home is but I also love her love for her country. She calls Eddy, our friend in Haiti that is helping with our paperwork, to see if he has been "working for her today". Right now her adoption still is not final and it is looking that it may be faster to adopt through the US. The big issue is that under normal laws she would not be a citizen for 2 years and will not be able to travel to Haiti until then. For a little girl who says at least once a day if not more "Mommy- I need to go to Haiti" two years is a long time. There is a bill that they are hopefully going to pass soon that will shorten this process to about 6- 8 months. Please be praying that this passes or something else happens to speed up the process. Most days I completely understand her desire to go to Haiti because I miss it terribly too. At this point I am going to try to wait to take my next trip until I can take her with me. Andy has a trip planned in September and she is very excited that he gets to go love on her friends and see her family.

Odette has been making bracelets and selling them for $1 to raise money to send to Haiti. Right now she is at $407 and is so excited that she can help her country in this way. We have spent many hours this summer on my bed watching NCIS (her new favorite show) and making bracelets.

Sorry for the lack of posts the last few months and the length of this one. Hopefully this has caught you up some on our crazy life.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Never Forgotten



Today would have been Atanie Laurient's 5th birthday. It is amazing to me how many lives that this little girl touched in her four short years & also the lives that she continues to touch. I will forever be grateful for the 4 weeks I got to spend with Atanie. From the first day when I met that sweet little girl standing at the top of the orphanage stairs in her unbuttoned preemie size onsie sticking out of the top of her skirt, to the truck ride to Coq Chante on January 11th- I will cherish every minute together. I am especially thankful for the last week that I spent with her. We had some really special times when I stayed behind with the little girls while the team went on walks with the older girls. I don't know how many times I heard her & Guerline chant that week "Allyson, Allyson mwen pa gen sandals (I don't have sandals)". That big smile, precious laugh & the way she would wink at you will always be with me. The last night we spent at Camatin was one of the most fun times I ever spent with her. She was so full of life that night and we all spent time laughing and playing with her.

Odette misses Atanie more than I can say. She is still grieving for her but has spent a lot of time writing to her which I think is part of the healing process for her. Each letter she writes to her breaks my heart but none more the line "God love Atanie for me please."

To learn more about Atanie and be a part of the legacy that she is leaving behind please take a minute to visit www.atanieshope.org. The video of her saying "I want to say thank you" was taken at Camatin the last night we were with her.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Odette Baptism



Yesterday was a big day for all of our family. For me it was a big reminder of God's bigness. Along the adoption journey I have set little goals for the day Odette would come home; by school starting, by Thanksgiving, by Christmas and the last goal I set in my mind and asked God for was by Spring Break. I know these goals were silly but it made the waiting not seem quite as bad as originally thinking she would not be home until Spring 2010 when we started the process in November 2008. As I made my new goal of Spring Break I asked God for that knowing that it would have to be a God thing to get her here then. Reading others time-lines I knew this would be a big deal to get her home in less than a year after our papers finally got to Haiti. I was reminded yesterday that God had a bigger plan than I could have ever imagined in place. Not only was she home on January 23, 2010 she got to step off a plane with 4 of her "sisters" & Wousamy. Not only was she home by Spring Break, she talked to us last week about her desire to be baptized on Sunday and then did a video recording in almost complete English. The bigness of God and his plans amazed me yesterday and made me so thankful for his special timing for these 6 children and I can't wait to see the plans that He has for the other 12 girls unfold in the near future.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easter Bunny

If you need a good laugh today here it is. Last week at English class Kevin told the girls about the Easter Bunny. He told them about this big bunny that was going to come into their house while they are sleeping and leave them an Easter basket. So for the last week Odette can't quit talking about it. She says if she wakes up in the middle of the night & sees the Easter Bunny (which when she says it it usually comes out as "Mister" Bunny) that she is going to kick him.

We were at the mall eating yesterday & she looked over the railing & said "Mommy what is that". I told her it was the Easter Bunny. She started laughing & said "I thought you & Kevin monte me (lied to me)". She couldn't eat her lunch because she was so busy watching him so I asked if she wanted to go down & see him & have her picture made & she said yes because she had to show her friends. At the last minute she almost chickened out but I finally convinced her to sit down (it makes me laugh how far apart they are) but it turned out to be a good picture of her & she said "Mommy I am beautiful today" (which is such a big step because everytime we tell her she is beautiful she says no!".

Monday, March 15, 2010

Update- Finally

Sorry to those of you who check often for updates, I think daily about writing on here but then there are not enough hours in the day lately. Please bear with us as we learn what the new "normal" looks like in our lives. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support not just since the earthquake and Odette coming home but also through our entire journey to bring her home. Life now all seems like before the earthquake and after the earthquake. My trip to Haiti Jan. 4-11 now seems like a lifetime ago. It is hard to believe that Odette has now been home for over 7 weeks. Sometimes it seems that it hasn't been long and other days it seems like she has been here forever. She just fits in our family- she is definitely a Coleman girl.

Things I love:
*listening to Abby & Molly speak Creole to her
*listening to Taylor & Odette giggling in their bed together at night
*hearing her sweet Haitian voice singing in the other room
*watching her daddy swing her around and listening to the laugh it brings
*watching her experience each new thing
*knowing my whole family is safely tucked in bed under one roof each night
*helping her with her English & getting to watch her confidence grow
*listening to her and her friends speaking Creole to each other
*being around her when she is silly
*getting to hug & kiss her whenever I want (even if she fusses about it)
*seeing her walking down the hall at church- we have talked about it forever & it is really happening now
*that she is is home sick today & when she woke up from a nap she came & climbed in my lap and sat there a while

Firsts:
*water-fountains
*escalators, elevators, automatic doors
*automatic soap dispensers and air hand-driers
*cold weather
*snow
*going to the mall
*trying on clothes at a store
*warm bath & shower
*cold water out of the refrigerator door
*having a choice of what she wants to eat
*a warm house & air-conditioning
*computers
*microwaves
*riding a bike
*a playground to play on
*drive-thrus
*drawers full of clothes (she changes at least twice daily)
*a zoo full of animals that she had never seen & some never heard of
*swimming in a swimming pool
*ice skating (which she LOVES)
*seeing a washer & dryer
*using a vacuum cleaner (she tried to use the broom on the living room carpet so Taylor showed her how to use the vacuum cleaner)
*a potty that you flush each time you use it & plenty of toilet paper (we have had a record number of stopped-up potties in the last 7 weeks)
*trip to Krogers (she loves the "market" and wants to just walk around and look more when we finish shopping)
*valentine's day cards (try to explain valentines day to someone that just moved to America)
*trip to the movie theater
*singing & dancing on stage for Studio 252 at church
*trip to the Sunsphere

Communication
* is getting better every day. Our Creole is slowing getting better and her English is growing by leaps and bounds every day. Last night, Andy & I talked about how she is now speaking to us almost completely in English. Every once and a while there is a word that she doesn't know that we have to work to find out what she is trying to say but for the most part we understand each other.
*She has been working through the emotions of not only the earthquake but her life in Haiti before she came here. The more comfortable she feels with us the more she is beginning to share. We have learned that she was in the city at a house right next door to her aunt & uncle. She was with her mom, dad, brother & sister (they live in the city while they are going to school) & her cousin that lives near her parents in Coq Chante. She said she was scared and that a big rock fell on her leg. Her aunt, uncle and cousin were all killed during the earthquake an she was there when it happened. She says Port-au-Prince is bad and there were dead bodies everywhere. They started walking not long after the earthquake and walked until the next afternoon when they arrived at home. She has talked about how scary and bad Port-au-Prince is in the dark. I have ridden through there at night in a truck & it was bad enough- I can't imagine walking at night especially in the middle of a natural disaster. She has told us about the big blisters she had on her feet after walking that far. She told us that Eddy is the one that called and told her about Atanie dying. She said she cried and she also cried when she saw the orphanage. She is dealing with Atanie's death as best as she can. She wants to watch the video that Andy made for Lorie that has a bunch of pictures of Atanie all the time & talks about how Atanie is with Jesus.

*School
-For the first 6 weeks Odette stayed home with me. We would work on English during the day as we had time & mostly this just gave her time to adjust to her new life. She would go & sit in her desk in her classroom for a few hours on Fridays when I would volunteer. She got the point that she would ask every night if she would get to go to school with Taylor so we decided that she was finally ready. Because she has only been in school for 2 years consistently since she went to the orphanage in Feb. 2008 she is pretty far behind academically. She is going to 5th grade with Taylor and will repeat 5th grade again next year. This year is just to be immersed in the English language, learning the routine of school with Taylor there to help and for the social interaction. Right now she is just going until 11:15 which is 1/2 day (she started on March 5th). While she is there she gets 30 minutes with the English Language Learners teacher. So far she loves school, especially time in the classroom & ELL. She is struggling a little with the special area classes- gym, music & art. She has never had this many different teachers before so it is a learning experience for us all. Her school has been so great and supportive through this process and we really appreciate that they truly care for her and our family.
-Odette, Islande and Benita also have English class each Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday nights for an hour which is also a great help. We are very grateful to Ms. Rebecca for all of her time.
-Odette, Wousamy, Valancia & Islande are taking swim lessons each Tuesday & Thursday afternoon. They are all fearless and will be great swimmers by the summer.

Favorite foods:

Chicken, pork, hamburgers, fish, steak, rice, fruit (mangos, pineapple, apples, & bananas especially), vanilla ice cream, cinnamon toast crunch, cinnamon rolls, water, sprite & coke, ice cream sandwiches, popcorn, spaghetti, baked potatoes

Does not like:

Vegetables (except corn & lettuce), pizza, yogurt, milkshakes, not crazy about chocolate

The other girls:
*The girls still enjoy spending as much time together as they can. At first they just wanted to check out each others houses to make sure that everyone was being taken care of. Every time that we got together Odette would pack a bag of various items to share with the other girls including coke, crunch and munch, capri-suns, mangoes, apples, pineapple and my favorite was the can of chicken that Benita brought to Odette. That stopped for the most part after the first couple of weeks so I guess they see that their friends really are taken care of and have the same kinds of things that they have at their houses to eat.
*We have had many playdates, sleepovers and their time together at church, swim lessons, and English lessons really have been a big help to their adjusting to their new life. I love how much they love each other & am so thankful for God's goodness in bringing them all here together.

Our newest family member:
*we added our newest member Callie, a 7 week old yorkie poo on March 4th. This was a Christmas present for the girls and we never imagined that Odette would be home before we found a puppy. I am glad that she has been here to be a part of the process. She only has met a couple of dogs that she likes so we were afraid that she wouldn't like the puppy at all. She has done really well with her so far & likes her most of the time.

Emotions:
*this is the hardest part of the whole homecoming & something we would appreciate prayer for. Haitians for the most part don't show a lot of emotion. In a county that daily life is so hard you being sad or mad is really a low priority. There are times when Odette just completely shuts down, we know that she is either sad or mad but getting to the bottom of the problem takes a lot of work. She has probably never been questioned about what is wrong before when she goes off by herself. We are trying to teach her that that is part of being a family, that we are her parents and we really do care about what has made her sad or mad. There have been many tears shed worrying about her and just wanting to be able to get through to her. For the most part this is getting better but there are still days that are hard. But God did not promise this would be easy, he just asked for obedience and is walking with us every step of the way. We are just trying to keep the lines of communication as open as we can & try to be aware of when she is headed into one of the moods so we can stop it before it gets too far. One night last week she refused to talk to us for hours before bed other than to say that she was sad & that she would not tell us why. This continued into bedtime and the next morning & when she finally decided to tell us that she was "sad at me because I told her we would look at Haiti videos later & I forgot". I even mentioned this the night before & she wouldn't admit that was what was wrong. So this part of the journey is taking a lot of patience, understanding, prayer, and just standing firm so she knows this is what being what a family looks like and her moods will not make us love her any less.

I am sure there are many things that I have left out but I will continue to update as I think of them. I will also post some pictures in the next few days.

Allyson

Thursday, February 25, 2010

GREAT ARTICLE FROM ROB ZIMMER ABOUT BRINGING THE KIDS HOME

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/feb/12/haiti-orphan-evacuation-front-seat-view/

EDITOR'S NOTE: Robin Zimmer is executive director of the Center for Truth Discovery, a part of ProVision Foundation, and he's an elder at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church. He was aboard one of the two planes that brought six Haitian orphans to Knoxville last month. He's written this first-hand account.

Atlanta Air Traffic Control Center has just passed us off to Knoxville approach.

We confirm our intentions, confirm that we have heard the automated weather brief for McGhee Tyson Airport, and we are soon passed off to the tower.

It is Saturday, Jan. 23, and we are cleared to land on runway 5 right. The King Air 200 is slowed, flaps are deployed and the landing gear grinds down with all 3 green indicator lights aglow in the cockpit (gear down and locked).

We have already called TACAir, the fixed based operator for general aviation in Knoxville to inform them that we are inbound with some VIPs.

Behind the cockpit bulkhead sit 3 Haitian orphans, Wousamy Bates, Odette Coleman and Islande Stout, their new parents and a news camerawomen from WBIR TV. Three additional orphans also from the Cog Chant orphanage in Haiti and their parents are ahead of us in a Falcon jet donated by Pilot Corp.

Little did we know of the reception awaiting us at TACAir. Two hundred teary-eyed friends and family from White Stone Church as well as the local news media jammed the airport's small general aviation reception lounge.

This event had such an effect on me that I feel compelled to pass on some notes of my "front seat view" of the entire process and my thoughts on its significance.

I suppose I should begin by stating that if you ever questioned your belief in an omnipotent and loving God, I wish you could have ridden along with us on this little adventure. Suffice it to say, your doubts would have been put to rest.

It all began on the tarmac at McGhee Tyson. It was Tuesday late afternoon, Jan. 19, and I was about to climb into the right co-pilot's seat of a twin turbo King Air captained by Mr. Adrian Van Zyl, a South African born pro with over 16,000 hours of total flight time.

Behind us sat three medical doctors, an EMT, a pastor and a special forces trained security guy. In addition to the eight souls on board, hundreds of pounds of medical supplies, water, food and donated clothes were stuffed into the cargo area.

Given the fuel, people and supplies, this was one heavy airplane rolling out for take-off in Knoxville.

First stop - Ft. Lauderdale's Executive airport, where we would stay the night and leave early the following morning. By 6 a.m., everyone was back on board for the 2 hour direct flight to Providenciales in the British West Indies.

Provo, as it is commonly called, is an ideal staging area for private flights into and out of Haiti. Since re-fueling in Haiti would not be possible, we needed to go in carrying enough for a round trip back out to Provo.

The folks at Provo Flight Center could not have been more accommodating or nicer. Locals stuffed the reception lounge with bottled water, fruit, cookies, hard boiled eggs and PB&J sandwiches for flight crews, medical personnel and Haitian refugees. While we were getting our paperwork in order and confirmed, a New York gentleman offered 80 large tents for transport into Haiti. At 40 pounds a piece, Capt. Adrian and I exchanged looks as we both knew we were already pushing "gross takeoff weight."

But the Captain glanced down and simply said, "We just can't let those kids spend another night without some sort of cover."

We jammed two tents and poles on-board and prepared for takeoff to Jacmel on the south coast of Haiti. It is important to understand that since the quake, all Haiti airspace was officially closed and only airplanes with pre-approved "landing slots" or fly over approval could enter.

Adrian Van Zyl and his RTG Mission Flights had already gotten full approval for our flight into the non-towered airport of Jacmel and its 3,400 foot long landing strip.

I was about to learn a lot about international relief flying from this guy……..an awful lot.

En route from Provo, we passed directly over Port au Prince and directly through this airspace by Haiti traffic control. We listened intently as aircraft bound for Port au Prince were being instructed to enter stacked holding patterns with expectations of 1 to 2 hour delays prior to receiving landing clearance. Jacmel was just to the south over a significant mountain range.

In addition to mountainous terrain, Jacmel airport was non-towered and had no lights or instrument approach capabilities. If the runway is not clearly visible, no approach and no landing - simple as that.

But it just so happened that the weather was clear, ceiling high and we were able to approach for a southerly landing (180<0x00B0> on the compass).

The only problem was that in addition to no tower, there was no common traffic frequency to communicate with other aircraft and the place was abuzz with military helicopters and other fixed wing aircraft, all with intentions to take-off or land.

Prudently, we circled the small field three times while Adrian and I glued our eyes for other traffic.

Cockpit chatter was succinct and all business: "Cessna at 2 o'clock…..got him? Navy chopper just lifted off coming our way…..got him? Got the radio tower at 4 o'clock? How 'bout the Caravan level with us at 9 o'clock?"

This intense cockpit dialogue went on as we lowered and raised our gear to signal our intentions. Such action was our only means of communicating our intentions at this very small field nestled right up into mountainous foothills to the north and the turquoise Caribbean waters a hundred meters off the runway to the south.

We landed, off-loaded the incoming team and cargo and quickly returned to Provo. The plane's insurer made it clear………..no overnight parking on Haitian soil. After passing through customs at Provo in the British West Indies, Adrian and I enjoyed a few cold beers and maybe the best conch chowder ever made.

We discussed the need to come back down and pick up six orphans stranded in Jacmel and how the paperwork for entry into the U.S. would probably take another week or maybe more. What a shame we could not get them sooner.

Adrian also explained how he crashed a plane into a mountain in South Africa many years ago following engine failure and that he was not expected to live. In fact, the doctors informed his family that there was simply no chance for recovery. He was comatose for months and spent three years in the hospital and rehab.

I asked him if perhaps, just perhaps, God pulled him through because years later he would be called upon for a special mission to pick up six orphans from a remote little landing strip in a place called Jacmel, Haiti.

"That may very well be," he conceded with a smile, and we both retired early for a good night's rest before leaving for home on Thursday morning.

On Thursday the 21st, we departed Provo and flew directly back into Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport to pass through customs and re-fuel for the trip back to Knoxville. A quick check of the weather radar showed a solid line of really bad weather laying across most of the panhandle of Florida and extending offshore past Jacksonville.

This violent weather (red and yellows on the radar) lay directly in our flight path and alerts were being broadcast to include altitudes of over 50,000 feet. Just too high to go over and just too expansive to go around…….we were stuck and were not going anywhere until the weather blew off and out to sea.

There was just no way the storm would linger and block our route home any more than an hour or so. It would have to keep moving northeast and out of our way. Two hours later, and we were amazed when the radar indicated the storm had stalled and would remain an impenetrable road block for quite some time.

It just so happened that this extraordinary weather delay was just enough time for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker's office to finish up paperwork for the orphans and for Kevin Rudd to call from White Stone Church in Knoxville and ask if there was any way possible to return to Haiti (Jacmel) and pick up the six kids.

Kevin would fly commercial late that night after the storm finally cleared and meet us in Ft. Lauderdale to join us for the pick-up in Haiti. If the weather was clear in North Florida or simply not as expansive in size, Adrian and I would have already been en route to Knoxville and we would have missed Kevin's urgent late afternoon request.

We checked into a couple of hotel rooms near the airport and rested for a few hours before returning around 4:30 AM for the return to Provo and Jacmel for the kids. Kevin Rudd met us at the plane and we were airborne by 5:30.

After picking up fuel in Provo and checking papers and flight plans, it was time to make our way back into Jacmel.

Kevin was in touch with our team collecting the kids at the orphanage, and we stressed that the kids would have to be waiting at the airport for our arrival. We would have no time to wait because a very difficult and stressful flight into Port au Prince (PaP) would follow the pick up in Jacmel.

In order for the kids to be cleared for passage into the U.S. under the "Humanitarian Parole" program, papers would need to be picked up at the U.S. Embassy in PaP with the kids present on the ground.

While preparing for departure out of Provo, local community members wanted their ages and relative sizes so that they could buy and collect clothes and arrange for overnight accommodations once we got them out of PaP with proper papers.

The three of us departed Provo with full fuel knowing there would be no re-fueling in Haiti. Moreover, weather reports over the southern coast of Haiti were not available and we knew the only way in was under "VFR" (Visual Flight Rules). In other words, we had to be able to fully see the approaching Jacmel runway, otherwise the evacuation would be aborted.

We again crossed the Haitian border from the north over Cap Haitian, and just as we flew over the mountains, it just so happened that the little Jacmel airstrip was in full view.

We could not believe our eyes.

I glanced down at our GPS unit and at a distance of 35.4 miles, the tiny white airstrip was virtually aglow in the center of our windscreen. There awaiting our arrival were six orphans ranging in age from 7 to 12 who had never seen or experienced anything outside their meager Haitian living conditions.

Thanks to the seasoned veteran in the left seat, the landing was unremarkable and there at the end of the runway stood 6 tiny figures huddled closely together while clutching torn baby dolls. Whatever this significant life change would bring, they would face it together drawing courage from one another.

We loaded them and strapped them in as quickly as possible and reviewed the takeoff checklist. Given the takeoff weight of the 6 kids, 2 adult caretakers, the 2 of us in the cockpit and a liberal amount of fuel, every inch of the short strip was used.

The end of the strip was marked by a crowded road, hundreds of partially collapsed corrugated huts and palm trees which seem to have been strategically placed to snag landing gears. We cleared them at a level close enough to see facial details of the Haitians staring up with pitiful expressions of hopeless desperation.

These were the thousands being left behind.

Again, we carried a great deal of fuel with the expectation of an hour or more holding over Port au Prince - our destination to meet with the U.S. Embassy.

Although we had a landing slot into Haiti, we fully expected very complicated approach instructions from Port au Prince tower and a long holding pattern prior to entry. It is Friday and if we cannot get to the U.S. Embassy before it closes at 4:30 PM or so. we will be stranded with these children and no place to go. Without proper U.S. Embassy papers, we cannot take them to Provo - a British Colony and we cannot take them into the U.S.

Also, with no landing lights behind us at Jacmel, a return to the orphanage is out of the question.

To put things into perspective, approximately 1,400 aircraft from around the world are trying to enter into Haiti airspace and land at Port au Prince.

A total of 120 to 140 per day actually get cleared to land.

With charts open across our laps and pens poised for holding instructions, we called Port au Prince tower and announced that we were inbound from Jacmel.

The tower immediately responded: "King Air two one Delta Echo cleared to land runway 10."

Adrian and I looked at each other in total disbelief.

"Did he say we are cleared to land, as in like right now?"

The tower had no idea of two one Delta Echo's urgent appointment and the need to get these kids processed. Of the hundreds of aircraft touching down into Port au Prince since the quake, very few, if any at all, have been given straight in landing clearances. The odds against such an occurrence seem astronomical.

I turned and starred back into the cabin and thought: "These kids must truly be VIPs, but whose VIPs?"

I think I had my answer.

"Seat belts all on?" I asked.

I was greeted with smiles that would have lit up a stage production.

Upon landing, we were directed to park on the grass adjacent to the main taxi-way by U.S. National Guard personnel.

It struck me that the PaP airport looked very much like a war theatre. Military transports, helicopters, troops, land troop carriers punctuated the entire field. Supplies were being off-loaded from fixed wing C-5s and stacked in the infield for subsequent transport into down town Port au Prince via military trucks and cargo choppers.

Now, I am simply not smart enough to know why this quake happened, but the response to it in the form of aid was on a scale that was overwhelming and virtually incomprehensible.

Is it possible that God was announcing: "The Haitians are my people and this is my army. Enough is enough and we are coming in mass from around the globe to assist, care for and provide relief for my beleaguered children in Haiti."

I must say, of all the nations engaged in this conflict, it was pretty clear that America was leading the charge. What a proud moment to see the U.S. in its usual leadership role.

To all the geopolitical second-guessers around the world, make no mistake - like many other natural catastrophes, the U.S. was first in and will probably again be the last out while employing more aid resources than all other nations combined.

We off-loaded the kids and tucked them under the shade of the wing while Kevin Rudd and 2 others ran off to the US Embassy to procure final paperwork. We waited for just over 5 hours watching the coordinated air ballet around us.

What a show.

U.S. Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, Red Cross and planes from dozens of other nations all working in concert for "Haiti Relief."

Five hours in the hot sun is almost too much to ask most kids, but not these. They napped, waved at taxiing flight crews and sat quietly displaying a genuine air of appreciation for all that was being done.

How could these little kids be this good for so long in the hot sun?

The answer: Unlike most, if not all, of us in the developed world, they carried no expectations, no demands and had no assets at risk other than the clothes on their backs and their very lives. They were simply waiting patiently for their new life in a land they had never seen or experienced.

What a lesson for us all.

Departing Port au Prince around 4:30, we shot over to Provo for fuel, a nice dinner and a good night's rest.

Saturday would be the final leg into the U.S. Arrival into the Ft. Lauderdale Executive airport was uneventful and as we taxied up to the U.S. Customs office, I noticed that at least one new parent for each child was waiting outside the fence cheering and crying at the same time.

The U.S. Customs officials in Ft. Lauderdale could not have been nicer, but it took quite some time to get all 6 kids' paperwork properly submitted. At one point, I leaned over to sip from a water fountain on the wall in the Customs office and I noticed at least 3 pairs of little eyes staring in wonderment with mouths agape.

It suddenly dawned on me that they had never seen such a box that provided clear, clean cold water simply by depressing a button.

When rain water cisterns were dry in Haiti, these kids would walk 2 hours to fill up 5 gallon buckets from a stream and carry them balanced on their heads for the 2-hour walk back to the orphanage.

What an acclimation awaited them. They were about to taste the wonderment of a rich civilization and freedoms that boggle the mind. My sincere hope is that they remember to distinguish between "needs" versus "wants."

Too often, we confuse the two, and this confusion is a social contaminant that pollutes the soul of wealthy citizens around the world. It is one contaminant not found in Haiti.

After rendezvousing with the Falcon jet donated by Pilot Corp., we split the kids and families into 2 groups and our party headed back to Knoxville in separate planes. We delivered the VIPs into the welcoming arms and tears of new family, new friends, new surroundings, new comforts, new liberties and a new country - the United States of America.

What a privilege it was for me to have a front seat view of this event which will mark a new life for six Haitian orphans.

Wousamy Bates, Odette Coleman, Dieula Fitzpatrick, Benitha Rudd, Islande Stout and Valenzia Zimmerman - welcome to America and God bless you all.

© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/feb/12/haiti-orphan-evacuation-front-seat-view/

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Odette in the snow


Sorry for taking so long to post. Life has been as crazy as you could imagine. Here is odette in the snow. Yes, she is wearing boots and shorts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

God is GOOD!!

Wow. I don't even know where to start. I want to go back and blog about the crazy week that lead up to her homecoming but I will get now to what everyone wants to know- how has it been since she has been home. Things have been great. It is still completely surreal and I still can't believe it when I see her walking around our house! We left the airport and came home for a few minutes for Andy to pick up something. She got to see her room for the first time. She was so excited and laughed about Chester the girls big horse in Taylor's room and quickly got on it to ride it. She made her way through some of the different rooms and met Sammy our cat. It is funny that she really doesn't know how to pet him. Animals in Haiti are looked at very different than they are here and they probably think it is crazy that we have animals living in our house and that we pet them and pay attention to them.

We then headed to Chick-fil-a for her first play place experience. She is 10 years old and has never been on a slide (unless you count sliding down the inclines on the roof at Camatin). Then we sat down for chicken and fries and a coke. She loved it all but you could tell she was tired because she didn't want to go back and play. We then took her first trip to Target to get her some shoes to wear to church. She was amazed by the huge store & we just enjoyed watching her face as she looked through clothes (well if you count doing the ugly cry in the middle of Target enjoying). She asked for a couple of things and we told her we would wait until later and she immediately put them back. We let her pick out a pair of shoes and then to her to the hair aisle to pick out hair accessories and combs, and then let her pick out some lotion. As we were paying I reached in my pocket to get my credit card and instead pulled out a Target card. On one of the packages she received at the airport had a gift card on it and it was falling off so I stuck it in my pocket and had forgotten about it. I am not even sure who it was from but if you are reading this- thank you!! That was a big happy last night!!

We headed back home and let her open a few of her Christmas presents, she explored the house some more. Then she took her first warm bubble bath (she loved it- she put bubbles all over her face and made a big mess in the bathroom splashing). Before their bath the girls were all upstairs laughing and when I asked why Taylor said she was laughing because they took off their panties to get ready for their bath. She came down the steps in her towel still giggling. In the orphanage they take a bath in their panties and when they finish they hand-wash their panties and hang them up to dry. Taylor then spent an hour braiding her hair & then they went to sleep. What a precious moment it was to walk in the girls rooms and kiss 4 girls goodnight and go to bed with such a peace knowing all of our family was under one roof safe and cuddled in their beds.

Andy said this morning when he came down from his shower that Odette and Taylor were up and Odette was in Abby & Molly's room hitting their bed with a scarf and trying to wake them up so he had to stop her. She spent the morning just going from one thing to another in our house. I think there is too much to do and she can't decide what to do first. So far her favorite thing is her balloons she got at the airport.

Watching her she is so much like a toddler exploring their environment. Little things that we didn't think about amaze us: the girls had to teach her at Chick-fil-a how to open her straw, I had to teach her at church how to tear the paper towels off the paper towel dispenser, that hot water comes out of the faucet, and the list I'm sure will continue to grow.

She took the hair down that Taylor fixed and she fixed her own hair this morning in pigtails. They have never really had the freedom to fix their hair themselves so this will be a learning process for us all.

Andy came and picked us up for church and we got to ride together as a family. She seemed to enjoy church and mostly enjoyed getting to talk to the other adoptive girls. I love watching them talk to each other and loving on each other. So far today Odette has asked to call Valancia and go to her house and she has gotten a call from Islande and Benita too. Before bed she told me tomorrow she wants to go to Benita's house. God knew that these girls were going to need each other so much that he brought them here at the same time so the could be together.

She asked for pork for lunch (that is the only word that I have not understood yet but luckily Brian was close so he was able to help out). We went to Mandarin House because she wanted rice too and we thought they had some pork dishes. They really didn't but she liked most things that she tried and was completely fascinated by the fish tanks. She kept leaving the table just to go look.

She spent the afternoon playing and changing clothes. I think she had on at least two outfits and redid her hair again. She starting washing the dishes in our sink so Taylor showed how how to load them in the dishwasher.

For dinner she wanted fish so we got Long John Silvers (I promise that I can cook but I doubt she knows that other than the cinnamon rolls that I made for breakfast). She had fun playing at Valancia's but then she came and said in English "Let's go home." Which is now my favorite words that she says. It took us a little while to convince her to go to bed but she finally did. She was talking about school tomorrow and I had to tell her that Abby, Molly & Taylor are going to school but she was going to stay with me. She seemed fine with that and that is when she told me that we could go to Benita's tomorrow.

Well this ended up longer than I thought but I am sure there are other details I left out but I will update as I remember them. Thanks again for everyone's support and prayers through this entire journey to bring our little girl home where she belongs!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ODETTE, ALLYSON & THE OTHERS ARE ON THEIR WAY

Ally just called. They are on the plane preparing for take off. Here is a link to follow their flight.

http://flightaware.com/live/flight/N21DE

ODETTE IN IMMIGRATION!!!!

SHE IS ON AMERICAN SOIL

Allyson just called to say that they see everybody and that they are on the ground. SHE'S REALLY IN THE U.S. ALONG WITH THE OTHERS!!!!! The parents have already gotten in trouble for taking pictures. They now have an idea of what its like for the girls to be waiting on us at the orphanage.

Allyson and the others on the way...

I just talked to Allyson. The shuttle is taking them to the airport where the plane is to be landing. Will post when Allyson has her hands on Odette.

Friday, January 22, 2010

ALLYSON - TO THE AIRPORT!!!!

Allyson is headed to the airport right now to catch a flight to Miami with the other parents.

THEY HAVE THE PAPERS!!!

Kevin has the papers and is on his way back to the airport.

AT THE AIRPORT RIGHT NOW

Here is video that Brian Lloyd of Harvest Field Ministries (harvestfieldhaiti.org) took of the kids sleeping in the shade of the plane.



Almost Home

The last 24 hours have been crazy. It has been a complete emotional roller coaster but God has been there in every detail and our girls & Wousamy are COMING HOME!!! Kevin flew in to Jacmel at 9:40 this morning and picked up the girls and Brian and they took right back off and headed to Port-au-Prince airport. Brian and the pilots stayed with the kids at the airport while Kevin went to the Embassy to process our paperwork. Be praying that that all goes as smoothly as planned. Then they will take off and land in the Virgin Islands to refuel and spend the night. One of each of the adoptive couples has to meet them in Fort Lauderdale in the morning to process more paperwork. So at 5:51 one tonight I (Allyson) will be headed from McGhee Tyson to Fort Lauderdale along with the other families. We will spend the night there and will head to the airport in the morning to see our kids. I still can't wrap my head around that but maybe it will hit when I am seated on the plane & can have a few hours to process it all. We still aren't quite sure what the return flight will look like but we hope to know better times by tonight or tomorrow morning. Andy will post on here when we find out. Please continue to pray for safe travel for us and the kids and adults flying from Haiti. We received this picture a few minutes ago which makes it more real (it is all 5 girls, Wousamy and the 2 pilots). All this year thinking about how it would be to go pick her up and bring her home it sure did not look like this but God is in control and I know his plans for us usually are far better than what we can imagine ourselves.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Updates

Sorry for the lack of updates in the last day or so, life is just crazy right now. As I type this I am amazed that it has just been a week since the earthquake and that I have only been home from Haiti 9 days at this point. It feels like forever.

On Monday I took a trip with 6 other people at our church to a meeting at Coopers office in Nashville to discuss the hopeful Humanitarian Parole and what the next weeks might look like. I will never be able to thank the staff and Cooper & Corkers offices for all of their help in this process. The meeting went well and we found out about an hour later that the Humanitarian Parole was passed and that our girls will be coming home. The first group of girls coming home will be the 5 girls in the process of adoption: Odette, Benita, Dieula, Islande & Valancia & also Wousamy that is being adopted by a couple at our church. Things are looking hopeful that we will later be able to bring the rest of the 12 girls home too.

We got news last night that this may happen much faster than we thought. Once plane arrangements have been made, Andy & Kevin will be flying to bring our 5 girls and Wousamy home. I can't believe it and it still does not seem completely real. We don't have details about exact dates now but I will let you know as soon as I find them out. But there is a good chance that we will have our kids home by early next week. Thanks for all your prayers and support during this time. It amazes me how many people now know about our girls and know their names. We have always said we would love it if we could go pick up the girls together so no one would be alone here & I am amazed by God and although I don't know the full picture of His plan I am in awe as each part is revealed.

I did get word for Rachel today that she talked to Brian and he walked to Odette's house yesterday to check on her. He had not seen her yet and had only heard that she was ok. He said she is good, she was playing and seemed pretty happy. She did have blisters on her feet from walking from Port-au-Prince but they are starting to heal & he cleaned them up and treated them for her. (I can't remember if we told you that we found out that her parents and her started walking from City of God in Port au Prince on Tuesday night and arrived at Coq Chante Wednesday afternoon- the trip is a 3 hour truck ride so I can't imagine walking that far- I think we have a pretty tough little girl!). Brian said she was really happy to see him but more excited that Hippolite was with him so nothing has changed- Hippolite has always been her favorite.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Worship at Coq Chante this Morning

Latest email update from our church

We received more good news today on several fronts.

Here's the latest:

- WOUSAMI IS SAFE!!! - Brian finally made it to Belloc today and verified that Wousami and his family are all fine, including Samuel who we finally got to talk to today. All the homes in Belloc are destroyed, but the people we know the best are all fine. (You can now exhale finally Bates family). Hallelujah!!

- BRIAN MADE IT TO COQ CHANTE AND SAW "OUR GIRLS" WITH HIS OWN EYES: They are doing well, although their food supply will only last for one more week. Water is scarce, but they have been drinking juice from chadeks (grapefruits) growing around the orphanage.

- ROAD TO JACMEL REPORTEDLY CLEAR: This is great news for our mission team scheduled to leave on Tuesday -- It makes ground transportation and safety much less of a concern. Brian and a few Haitian friends were taking the truck to Jacmel this afternoon to see for themselves. As of now, I haven't gotten any confirmation about what they saw.

It's late. More to come tomorrow. Good night.


Blessings,

Mark Zimmerman
White Stone Church

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hard to see pictures

Coq Chante Church, School & Orphanage Before:




Coq Chante Church, School & Orphanage After:



Words can't describe how I feel seeing this. It is too hard to believe that I stood and cried on that top balcony on Monday after I said good-bye to Odette & a little over 24 hours later it is gone. If you have not been there, on the top floor it took out the front balcony and the first room on the left & right, the left was where they kept their new sewing machines and the room on the right is where Pastor & Madame Gaspard slept. It also took out the wall into some of the girls rooms.

Latest email update from our church

Things continue to change and evolve. Here's the latest:

- ODETTE BACK AT COQ CHANTE: We just got word that Odette is back with the other girls. She was at "City of God" when the quake hit -- a church that completely collapsed. It is a miracle that she survived. Only the hand of God could have protected her. We don't know how she was able to make it back to the mountains -- but she did! Praise God!!

- SAMUEL TRYING TO CONTACT US: This is great news! Samuel is Wousami's older brother. We have had no contact from him or anyone from Belloc. We haven't been able to talk to him yet, but at least we know he is alive! Brian will stop by Belloc today on his way to Coq Chante. Pray for a good report on Wousami's family today!

- NO WATER AT THE ORPHANAGE: We have just learned that all the cisterns collapsed at Coq Chante and they lost all of their water supply. They haven't had water in several days. Their spirits are good, but the situation is very serious. Brian is trying to make his way up the mountain today -- he will try to find water on the way -- no easy task. Pray! PS (The girls could be heard singing in the background when Brian talked to them on the phone -- some things haven't changed!)

- BRINGING THE GIRLS HOME: We continue to work with political leaders to facilitate getting all the girls here as soon as possible. It looks like the best opportunity is to bring them through a process called "Humanitarian Parole". It is by no means a done deal. Much work to do. Need favor with some people in high position. Pray that God would allow this to happen quickly!

JACMEL AIRPORT OPENED: This is a huge answer to prayer. We are still not sure our team can land there on Tuesday -- but at least it is progress.

WE NEED A HELICOPTER: We are doing everything we know to do to find a helicopter that can bring us from an airstrip in the Dominican, Jacmel, or wherever we end up landing. The US government is likely our best chance. We are contacting everyone we know who may be able to call in a favor for us. If you know of anyone who can help ... make the call!

ROAD FROM JACMEL TO COQCHANTE REPAIRED: This means there may be a chance to get our White Truck to Jacmel to pick up our Team, but more importantly, to bring in supplies.

INFORMATION MEETING TOMORROW AFTER WORSHIP: Things are changing so quickly, I am planning a meeting after worship tomorrow to talk specifically about the details of bringing the girls to Knoxville. Anyone interested is welcome to stay.

THANK YOU FOR OVERWHELMING RESPONSE TO HOUSING GIRLS: At this point we have no idea who will be staying where, but we needed to be able to show the government that there is broad scale support for caring for these girls in Knoxville. I'll share more information about this at tomorrow's meeting.

- MONA, RICAYINA, AND RYAN COMING TO KNOXVILLE TOMORROW: Mona is Pastor Nicolas' wife, Ricayina and Ryan are Ricot's children (anyone who has met these two has immediately fallen in love with them). Ricot is afraid for their safety, so he is sending them to Knoxville to join thr mother tomorrow.

That's all for now. More to come shortly


Blessings,

Mark Zimmerman
White Stone Church

SHE IS BACK AT COQ CHANTE

We received this email this morning:

On Jan 16, 2010, at 8:34 AM, Brian Lloyd wrote:

U know she is back at coq chante now right?
She was at city of god when quake hit. It is totally destroyed. Absolute miracle they are ok. God protected her.
---------------------------------

What we are hearing about the city is not good and we are very thankful she is not there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

WAYS TO HELP

If you would like to help the girls and rebuild the Coq Chante orphange go to www.whitestonechurch.org to make a donation.

Newest email update from church

God is moving in a mighty way today! Here's latest . . .

- ODETTE IS SAFE: Praise God! She is with her birth mother in Port au Prince. Ricot can't get to her right away, but she is safe!!!

- HIPPOLITE IS SAFE! Hippolite, a former orphan who grew up in Pastor Nicolas' house, is the ultimate servant. He's been involved in every trip I've ever taken to Haiti.

- ESTEMINE IS SAFE! Estemine is the female version of Hippolite -- an orphan that Pastor Nicolas took in -- now the ultimate picture of beauty and grace

- EVELYN IS SAFE! Many of you know Evelyn from her time in the States.

- AGATHE'S FAMILY IS SAFE! Agathe is overseeing the girls at the orphanage, but her family was in Port au Prince -- they are all good, including her own little adoptive daughter, Garthland.

- LOZAMA IS SAFE! Lozama cooks for us on every trip.

- JABAY IS SAFE! Jabay is an incredible young man with a million dollar smile and a heart to match.

- MARY FLO IS SAFE! Mary Flo is another beautiful soul that helps serve us often.

- SANTELAH IS SAFE! Santelah is Mary Flo's mother, and she helps in the kitchen for all our trips.

- ALFRED IS SAFE! Alfred is Evelyn's husband, and he is also our driver. He is actually at Coq Chante with the girls and THE WHITE TRUCK! That's right . . . our truck is safe too!

- THE GIRLS HAVE ACCESS TO THEIR FOOD SUPPLY: The month's supply of food that we just left for the orphanage was not destroyed. The girl's are eating well and are sleeping in the back of the big truck.

- MEDIA PUBLICITY IS SPREADING: Another local newscast will report tonight (WVLT) and tomorrow morning "Good Morning America" will interview Lorie Johnson live!!!! Atanie's life is already having a huge impact in getting the story of all the girls out all across America. Pray that God would use it all for His Glory!

- SAMARITAN'S PURSE TO DO HELICOPTER DROP OF FOOD AND SUPPLIES AT COQ CHANTE AND CAMATIN: Through the efforts of two very distracted 5th grade teachers at Copper Ridge Elementary, and a very sweet lady from the Samaritan's Purse, God is making a way to do a helicopter drop of food and supplies to our friends at Coq Chante and Camitin. God continues to amaze me at how intentional HE is!!!!

WHITE STONE EMERENCY RELIEF TRIP IN THE WORKS: God is continuing to work out the details to get a team a 5-6 men from White Stone on the ground in Haiti in the coming days. Pray that God continue to knock down every barrier that stands between us and the work Hehas called us to do.

ONE VERY SAD NOTE -- PASTOR MENES DAUGHTER, BEREMY, IS DEAD: Please pray for Pastor Menes -- this was his "baby girl" and he adored her. Beremy died when her school collapsed.

More details as I get them. Keep praying. God continues to answer prayer!

Blessings,

Mark Zimmerman
White Stone Church

THANK GOD!!!

We just received word that Odette is ok and with her mother. Will post more later!!!

Latest email update from our church

Blessings White Stone family. Yesterday was a very long day, with many tears for lives lost, but with much hope as we hear stories of God's deliverance.

Thanks to all who joined the incredible turnout to pray last night for our friends and family in Haiti.

Here are the latest things we know:

- PASTOR RONNIGUE IS DEAD: Pastor Ronnigue was the spritual leader of the 25 churches that Pastor Nicolas started in Haiti. After Pastor Nicolas' death last year, Pastor Ronnigue's role became even more vital. He was Brian Lloyd's primary partner in reaching out to all these churches in Haiti. He was the man who gave spiritual leadership to all the churches, and trained and equipped the pastors. This loss is devestating. He was an incredible man of God

- BELLOC DESTROYED: Belloc was the first church, school, and orphanage that we ever worked in. At the time it housed an orphanage for boys. When Pastor Nicolas got sick, they had to close the orphanage and send the boys away, however the school and church were still operating. No word on any human casualties, but both buildings at Belloc were totally flattened. No word on Wousamy and his family yet.

- CAMATIN SAFE: Praise God for this!!!! This is the place where our mission teams stay. It is an incredible facility. Big enough and close enough to house all the girls from Coq Chante. Pastor Moises is doing well, although he has many dead in his community. He is taking care of many people at Camatin. He will try to send a person on motorcycle to Coq Chante today to tell the girls to walk to Camatin.

- ODETTE: Still no word on Odette. Keep praying for her safety.

- BRIAN LLOYD ON HIS WAY TO DOMINCAN REPUBLIC: Brian is in the air as I type this. He will try to work his way across the border into Haiti tomorrow. Pray!

- OTHER BIG STUFF IN THE WORKS: Pray for several meetings today with political leaders here in TN that could make a way to bring "our girls" home. I'll pass on more details later -- just pray for God's favor on these meetings. Pray for big things, huge miracles!

That's all for now. I love you. Blessings

Mark Zimmerman
White Stone Church

Still No News

There is still no news about Odette. They tried numerous times during the night to get through to Eddy but could not. At this point I am sure most cell phones are dead because there is no way to recharge them without power. So we would appreciate your continued prayers. Please pray too for our girls at school today. Pray it is a good distraction and that they are able to concentrate and have a good day. Taylor has a spelling bee at 9:00 that she has been looking forward too but today she woke up saying she didn't want to do it. Pray that she can focus.

I have had many people ask me how they can help. If you would like to help "Our Girls" financially you can go to our church website www.whitestonechurch.org & click on Haiti Disaster Aid at the top. All of that money will go towards our girls & sustaining them through this time & through the future as we try to rebuild. You can also read more about our work in Haiti and personal stories of each of the girls on our website.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No News Yet

I don't have words for the past 24 hours. We went to bed last night worrying about our friends in the city in Haiti but thinking that surely the orphanage all the way in the mountains would be fine. A knock on the door at midnight changed everything. After many hours of trying they finally got in touch with one of the workers at the orphanage. In a moment all of our lives were changed. They found out that the majority of the orphanage collapsed during the earthquake & the youngest girl did not get out. Her name was Atanie & I just spent a whole last week loving on her and laughing with her. Then Brian told us that Odette was not there. At this time they thought that she had gone with Eddy & her parents to the city but no one knew where they were. 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. They were supposed to stay with family in the city that night and then go today for testing. Eddy was headed out this morning to go find them. We have not had any phone service to Haiti since around 7 or 8 this morning so we still do not know any more. Our guys are going to spend the night calling over & over like they did last night until they get through. We are hoping for news by in the morning. Please continue to pray. I feel with everything in me that she is ok & I know that God is in control. I can't wait for a phone call with two words I have been longing to hear all day "HELLO, MOMMY".


Here is the email that was sent out this morning that explains all the details about our other Haitian friends. At this point we have no update on any of this information.

It has been a very long and deadly night for our friends and family in Haiti.

We have now spoken to the leaders at the Coq Chante Orphanage and this is what we know:

- A large portion (up to 1/2 or more) of the building structure at Coq Chante collapsed during the quake.

- ATANIE: the youngest of "our girls", did not make it out of the building. She was coming down the steps at the front of the orphanage when the front end of the building collapsed. They have now recovered her body.

- ODETTE: the adoptive daughter of Andy and Allyson Coleman, is presently unaccounted for. Odette was not at Coq Chante at the time of the quake. She was in Port au Prince with her birth parents for medical tests yesterday. Eddy knows where her family was supposed to be staying last night in Port aP, and is currently on his way to try to find her. We have been unable to make contact with her or her family to this point.

THE REST OF "OUR GIRLS" - The remaining 16 girls made it out with only some minor injuries. They are very frightened. The remaining structure is unsafe and they cannot go back inside at this point. The girls spent the night outside, in the courtyard of the orphanage. All the caregivers who presently live at the orphanage (Agathe, Edwin, Pastor and Madam Gaspard, Jean Luke and Magrela) are all safe and are caring for the girls.

- RICOT LOUIS JUSTE AND FAMILY: Ricot (Pastor Nicolas' son), Mona (Pastor Nicolas' widow), and their immediate family are all safe. Their house in Delmas sustained major damage but they all managed to make it out. They spent the night in the courtyard outside their home. Ricot's wife, Christina, is here in Knoxville with us.

- EDDY JEUNE AND FAMILY: Eddy, Nicole, and their children are all safe and their house came through the quake ok.

- PASTOR MENES: He is safe and his house still standing, but his youngest daughter, Beremy, is unaccounted for. She was at school in the city at the time of the quake, and Pastor Menes is getting reports that the school building collapsed. He hasn't been able to make contact with her.

We haven't been able to make contact with anyone else at this point, or confirm the condition of other facilities (ie, Camatin, Belloc). The epicenter of the quake was located in an area very close to the homes of many of our other friends (Hippolite, Estemine, Evelyne, Jabey, among others). We continue to try to make contact constantly.

At first light this morning Ricot will be trying to make the journey to Coq Chante to try to get to the girls. Reports are that Port au Prince is virtually destroyed, and the road up the mountain sustained much damage -- so travel may prove impossible.

WHITE STONE FAMILY: PLEASE PRAY! We will be monitoring the developments throughout the day - trying to formulate a plan on what our next-steps will be.

We covet your prayers. Pray for everyone involved. Pray for God's mercy. Pray for provision and safety for those unaccounted for. Pray for miracles. JUST PRAY.

We will pass on more information as we get it.

Blessings,

Mark Zimmerman
White Stone Church

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Please Pray!!

Please be praying for our friends and family in Haiti. As of now we have no information on "our girls" or any of our friends there. The center of the quake hit in an area where many of our Haitian friends live. Phone lines are down so we have not been able to get any information about how they are. Because the orphanage is on the mountain a couple of hours out of the city we are hopeful that they did not receive any damage.

One other prayer is for Odette's parents. They went to the city today for DNA testing & for a while I thought Odette may be with them but luckily she did not need to travel with them for the testing. I will update as soon as we hear from Haiti. It is hard to believe that I was on the ground in Haiti a little more than 24 hours ago. Please just continue to be praying!