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Missionaries bring Haitian children to U.S.

Staff writer

When she saw her children playing Sunday at her family’s home southeast of Hillsboro, Jennifer Ebenhack finally realized it was real.

She and her husband, Jarod, began trying to adopt three Haitian children — Jaden, Justin, and Daphne — nine years before, but they had made virtually no progress.

When she got the news Jan. 20 that all foreign adoptions had been approved, Jennifer let all of her emotions out.

“My mom was so happy that she screamed,” 11-year-old Justin said. “So the whole family had a screaming party.”

“I was crying, too,” Jennifer said.

She was crying because she had gotten her hopes up too many times before, and now her prayers had finally been answered. Jennifer and Jarod are missionaries working in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, Haitian President René Préval approved all foreign adoptions. That, combined with U.S. humanitarian programs, gave Jennifer a chance to bring all of the children to the U.S. — something the family hadn’t been able to do before.

The Ebenhacks’ adventure was only beginning the day the adoptions were approved.

Jarod was in the Dominican Republic marshaling supplies for earthquake-damaged Haiti, and he will be there for a few more weeks, Jennifer said Monday.

So Jennifer had to get the children — including biological children Brendan and Dora — from Cap-Haïtien to Port-au-Prince to board an airplane in less than a day.

The family took a bus ride along dangerous mountain roads to Port-au-Prince in the middle of the night. Daphne was sick, and the bus ride didn’t help matters.

Jennifer had a contact at the U.S. Embassy to help them to the airport. The embassy was inundated by earthquake survivors seeking refuge, so finding her contact was a challenge of its own.

They arrived at the airport at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and they were supposed to meet an orphanage group at 4 p.m. The building had been severely damaged by the earthquake, so they sat on the concrete outside to wait.

The appointed hour passed with no sign of the group. Jennifer nervously waited a while longer before she started calling, trying to reach someone from the group. As her battery was running low, she reached someone and found out she was in the wrong place.

The family was able to find the group and board the plane to Miami. During the short flight, Jennifer thought of all the times she and Jarod talked about what it would be like to bring all of the children with them to the United States.

The Ebenhacks arrived in Miami early Friday morning. The family spent seven hours in the immigration office with 81 babies. The officials in the immigration office were helpful, Jennifer said. They brought snacks, puzzles, and toys for the children.

“It almost made you cry,” she said.

On Saturday the Ebenhacks flew into Wichita, where they were welcomed by Jennifer’s extended family. They are staying with her family, southeast of Hillsboro.

The Ebenhacks have two years to complete the adoptions in the United States. When that is done, they plan to get passports for the children so they can travel between the U.S. and Haiti, where they plan to continue their work.

The children are still getting acclimated to the Kansas winter.

“I like putting on all the gear,” Justin said of his cold-weather clothing. “But I thought I was going to freeze to death.”

Last modified Jan. 27, 2010

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