Whitney King of Mt. Juliet holds Tia Wilson, who is originally from Haiti, her newly adopted cousin.By TOMI L. WILEYSpecial to The Wilson Post
MT. JULIET -- They almost had the little girl, whose face and name have been splashed across the news for weeks, home to Nashville when the earthquake hit.
For Whitney King of Mt. Juliet, the news meant that her almost-adoptive cousin, Tia, was now trapped in Haiti. King is the niece of Mike and Missy Wilson, who had just been in Haiti the week before finishing paperwork to formally adopt Tia and bring her home to Franklin when the devastating earthquake hit the impoverished country. King has worked with Brent Gambrell Ministries since 2006 and has been on mission trips to Haiti many times, so she was familiar with life there even before the 7.0-magnitude earthquake leveled the country.
After the Wilson family returned to Nashville with Tia and with the news that there were still 37 children stranded in Haiti who were in the process of being adopted, King knew she had to get down there to help. Brent Gambrell Ministries works with Love Beyond Borders, an adoption agency, and New Life Link, the orphanage where Tia lived during the adoption process and where Katie Eerie, who is like a daughter to the Wilson family, was working as an intern. They ranged in the adoption process from being in the referral stage to children waiting for visas to travel to their new homes in America.
But then the earthquake hit, and the building where the adoption documents were kept crumbled, collapsing from 5 stories to around 5 feet.
“The building was pancaked,” remarked Chad King, Whitney’s husband, a youth minister at First Baptist Church of Mt. Juliet. “There was no paperwork on those children – in essence these kids didn’t exist.”
King left on Tuesday, Jan. 19, for Haiti to help get those children to the U.S. While there, Whitney King worked with fellow Brent Gambrell Ministries employee Stephanie Theot, who specializes in adoption. Together the women worked at the American Embassy, next to the Port-Au-Prince airport, to process the necessary paperwork to get the children to a Ft. Lauderdale hospital, where they would be examined medically and finish the adoption process before going home with their parents.
“Their goal,” Chad said of his wife and Theot, “is to get those children out.”
As he talked on Thursday, Jan. 21, Chad received several text messages from his wife in Haiti. One described the aftershock she had just felt.
“Just felt two aftershocks,” he read with a smile. “Very, very weird.”
In Haiti, King said she was “amazed at how much the Haitian people are already continuing to go on with their life.”
“They have cleaned up the streets and are not willing to let things stop them,” King said. “They are a very resilient people, and they’re used to living like that – they’re used to the rubble and for fighting for everything they have there.”
While Chad King said his wife was under orders to remain at the airport he knew that “if she gets a chance to leave, she will.” And she did.
“I did get out of the airport, and going into the street I felt very safe,” she remarked, adding that the U.S. military had set up a base and was “restoring order.”
King said there were “a lot of tent cities where hundreds and hundreds of people are living, but they are going back to normal life.”
“People had set their stands back up and were selling vegetables on the side of the road again,” she said. “They had cleared out the dead bodies, and the houses that are still standing had spotless yards in front of them. One of the saddest things I saw, though, was when the search and rescue teams started packing up and going home. They’d given up the hope of finding anyone else alive.”
In the end, King and Theot were able to get six Haitian orphans to the States to finish the adoption process and join their parents. She said returning home on Saturday was “bittersweet because there is so much that needs to be done.”
“The question is how to go on, how to get aid there,” she said on Tuesday, en route to the Brent Gambrell Ministries offices in Nashville. She said ministry workers are collecting, loading and shipping supplies to Jacksonville, Fla., where they will be put into large containers, shipped to the Port-Au-Prince port, and sent to the villages the ministry works with. “It is definitely an ongoing process.”
King said she hopes to travel with her husband to Haiti in March to continue the rebuilding effort.
“They didn’t have a lot, much of a government, before this happened, I don’t know where they’ll go from here,” King said. “But they are starting to rebuild, and I hope for a bigger and better Haiti, that’s my prayer for sure. They’ve been very open to people there helping them.”
And as for her now-famous cousin Tia, King said the 5-year-old little girl has had “no issues whatsoever” blending in with her new family in Franklin. Chad said that the Wilson family is working to bring over another little girl from Tia’s orphanage, her best friend Naìka, “so she will have a friend and sister here.” King said Tia, however, has fit right in with her family in Tennessee.
“She jumped right in there,” King said, a relieved smile shining through her voice. “It’s taken a long time and they’ve been through a lot, but she’s home now.”
Editor’s Note: Tomi L. Wiley is the editor of The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet. She may be contacted at Editor@thechronicleofmtjuliet.com.