Jun 152015
 

Just a week and a half ago, I was speaking at a conference to a group of adoptive families.   All of them were there because they wanted to learn more about how they can help others walk this adoption road.   During the time I was talking, I told them that when I look now at what I knew 12 years ago when we started the process, my first thought is,  “Boy was I naïve’!”

I still run into that feeling as I talk to people, read about issues and try to remain as knowledgeable as possible on all of the issues facing children, particularly vulnerable children in this world.

The many face of vulnerable can be truly overwhelming.

  • They can be parents attempting to help their children heal from trauma they suffered before joining their family.
  • They can be siblings attempting to heal from the trauma they suffered after a new family member joined their family.
  • They can be the poverty stricken – literally all over the world.
  • They can be the victims of sex trafficking and their families – I can’t even imagine what the girls from Nigeria and their families have and are going through.
  • They can be the victims of injustice.
  • They can be the victims of racial discrimination.
  • They can be the victims of trauma and abandonment – and the struggles that leads to which many of them will heal from but will never fully get over.
  • and the list could go on and on for pages and pages.

The many faces of vulnerable can almost be paralyzing.   There’s so much and the problem is so big and we’re so comfortable in our middle class homes and our middle class lives.

The Vulnerable Project is going to be adjusting it’s focus a bit.   Our goal is going to be to not only motivate people to do something about the vulnerable of the world but to provide specific structures, specific contexts, specific ideas that people can do so that if you want to “do something,” you can do something.

And together, if we all do something, and we all do it in a focused, coherent and relatively organized manner, we can make a difference.

So, stay tuned, there’s a lot of stuff happening and a lot of ideas “in the mix.”

Thanks for caring about the vulnerable.   Thanks for caring about the children of the world.

Tom

Jan 202015
 

I’ve been thinking about that phrase a lot lately.

No, I’m not talking about the trip home from the airport after you get back from vacation.

I’m talking after the airport.

With a capital T and a capital A.

THE airport.   The one where you come home with your adopted child(ren).    The one where the family meets the cousins, nephew, niece, grandchild etc. for the first time.

THE Airport – the place where your adopted child(ren) are thrust into a whole different world.   A world where there are a lot of people who know them and love them.   Or at least love the picture of them and the “idea” of them.

THE AIRPORT – where everything changes.   Where your child goes from being one of many to suddenly being the center of attention.    From being on a trip to going to a strange house they’ve never been in before.

There are times where, after the airport, it truly is a “happily ever after” story.   Child adjusts well, learns a new language, learns to like chicken nuggets and fries, loves mom and dad and does well in school.

And there are times when it doesn’t.

When after the airport is a whole lot of work. And a whole lot of pain.  And a whole lot of struggle.

An example of that – a friend of mine wrote a post on her blog about dealing with the trauma that many adopted kids struggle with.   You can read it at http://outofshemind.com/2015/01/dear-adoptive-parents-hard-lonely-road/.   It was shared on Facebook over 14,000 times and was read by over 60,000 people.  Think about those numbers.   14,000 times.   That means that 14,000 families are acquainted with the struggles that many adoptive families go through and felt others should know about what Heidi wrote.  60,000 views.   That means that 60,000 people read what she wrote about it.   60,000 people – even if you figure two people per family, that’s still 30,000 families.

Those are vulnerable children.   Children who have a new family.   Children who aren’t vulnerable to malnutrition or preventable disease, but children who are vulnerable.   Vulnerable to the scars of their past.   Vulnerable to the culture shock of going to a new country, a new language, a new…….

Those are vulnerable families.   They are, mostly, experienced parents who know a bit about parenting.    But they haven’t been adequately prepared for THIS.

For Reactive Attachment Disorder.

For what PTSD looks like in adopted children.

For a whole host of other scars.

How can you prepare for the unknown?   It’s not easy.

But, there are things you can do, before the airport, to make “after the airport” go smoother.

I’ll expand on this in the future, but a couple of quick thoughts:

  • Make contacts with some experienced parents – people you can call or text and say, “oh my goodness, what do I do?”
  • Read – read books, read blogs, live into the experiences of others who are walking that trail and sharing it with others.   And don’t let just one spouse read and tell the other about it – both should read…….
  • Plan for chaos – plan for how you’re going to handle chaos.   Look at it sort of like going white water rafting.   The time before the airport, you’re riding in the raft and it’s relatively smooth.   But you know big rapids are coming.   You don’t know how big they are, but you know they are coming.   Prepare for it – talk through what you’re going to do.   Talk through how you’re going to communicate.    If the rapids are minor, it will have been a good exercise in communication.   If it’s a really wild ride, it could be life saving.

Remember, you are not alone.

Tom

Nov 292014
 

It’s been three days since I read this article by Lecrae – http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6327837/lecrae-ferguson.

Who is Lecrae?   Here’s what Wikipedia says about him……  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lecrae.

That article has gotten me thinking.    Thinking a lot.   Thinking about some tough questions.   Questions that Lecrae has no answers to.

Questions that I have no answer to.lecrae-billboard-650

But a question that I am asking myself a lot is this…….

Does the whole Ferguson mess illustrate and expose that we have another a different kind of vulnerable that we need to pay more attention to?

Are the vulnerable not only the women and children in 3rd world countries but also the children who aren’t white but live in first world countries and are faced with a system that at best has biases against them and at worst is downright discriminatory?

Should we, as the privileged in places like the United States, do more and be more focused on the vulnerable in our country as well.

While they might not be at risk of dying from malnutrition, they are at risk of dying.

And as such, should we be doing more to stand up and fight on their behalf?

I’d love to hear your thoughts,

TJV

Nov 062014
 

Bill Cosby QuoteSince about a month ago, The Vulnerable Project site has been very quiet.   It’s been quiet because I’ve been working on other things.   Things not totally related to The Vulnerable Project, but things related to the church.   You can read them at http://tomvanderwell.net/.

But we’re back and I’ll be writing more and doing more soon.   So stay tuned!

TJV

Aug 312014
 

So, there’s this minister who I’ve never heard of until recently.   His name is John Pavolvitz.   He writes a blog.

Recently he wrote a series on his blog called, “Church, here’s why people are leaving you.”   You can read all three parts at:

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/15/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-1/

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/20/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-2/

http://johnpavlovitz.com/2014/08/29/church-heres-why-people-are-leaving-you-part-3/

I’m not going to get into the details of what he wrote or my reactions to them at this point.   Instead I’m going to tell you about something that happened tonight……

A good friend of mine in Ann Arbor shared a link to Part 1 on Facebook with some comments about it.   Then another good friend (also in real estate – but in Virginia) commented on it.  We ended up having a wonderful, open, honest and disagreeable discussion about what was written.   A couple of things that I took away from the conversation:

  • I am blessed by Facebook on a daily basis – if it weren’t for things like this, I wouldn’t be able to have relationships and deep conversations with friends in other parts of the country and the world.
  • The overwhelming consensus in our conversation was that the church (the local church, not Christianity) is not doing what it is supposed to in reaching the lost, caring for the hurting, comforting the heartbroken and sharing the good news of the gospel.

In short, we aren’t doing enough of what God has called us to do  – to care for and reach the vulnerable of the world.

Vulnerable?  Yep, sort of like The Vulnerable Project.   This conversation and these friends underscored for me the importance of The Vulnerable Project and that the there are many more people and many more children who could be considered vulnerable. 

And the church needs to do more to reach those who are hurting.

Facebook and friends in Grand Rapids, Virginia and Ann Arbor on a Sunday night – motivating, exciting and way deeper than the “So how’s it going?” that is the usual fare at church……

Tom