Pure Religion...

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Cameras, family and hoopla surrounded Cleo Matthysse's joyful arrival Saturday afternoon at O'Hare International Airport with new parents Ryan and Sue Matthysse of Crown Point. But his new big brother, 4-year-old Preston, had a question.

"Daddy, won't he miss his nana in Haiti?" he asked about the 15-month-old orphan from Petionville, on the outskirts of earthquake-damaged Port-au-Prince.

"I'm sure he'll miss a lot of things about Haiti," Ryan Matthysse told him. "But now he has a mom and a dad and a big sister and a big brother, and we're going to love him just like we love each other."

The exchange captured both the jubilation and work required for families of adopted Haitians.

"This is an example of beauty from ashes," Matthysse said of his new son, who was dressed in a blue argyle sweater and calmly sucking his thumb. "God is good."

The Matthysses were one of several Chicago-area families reunited with their adoptive Haitian children as the week came to a close.

Kim Lewen traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with three other families to meet five Haitian orphans they were adopting. The children had been airlifted in a helicopter from an orphanage outside of Port-au-Prince and loaded onto a charted flight to the United States.

As Lewen walked into her Willowbrook home Friday, her two new daughters wrapped tightly in her arms, the reality of the situation hit her — after months of bureaucratic wrangling and a devastating earthquake that stranded the girls at a mountaintop orphanage, she had become a mother.

"It's really amazing," Lewen said. "We just ate dinner and now I am going to give them a bath.

"It is just the simple things — that they are going to go to bed here, that I know where they are, that I can wake up in the morning and they will still be here."


‘A child of my heart’

Ryan and Susan Matthysse arrived in Miami on Thursday evening to reunite with Cleo, a 15-month-old Haitian boy they adopted. Submitted photo

Couple arrive in Miami to pick up 15-month-old Haitian boy

By Kim King

Published: Friday, January 22, 2010 2:18 AM CST

Staff Writer

1-866-362-2167 Ext. 13858


The excitement Susan Matthysse felt was evident in her voice as she waited with her husband to board a 2:05 p.m. flight from Chicago to Miami.

It wasn’t because she was leaving behind the bitter northwest Indiana weather.

Susan and her husband, Ryan Matthysse, were flying to sunny Florida to meet up with the newest member of their family, Cleo, a 15-month-old from Haiti.

The couple, both 33, have been in the process of adopting a child from Haiti for years, according to Susan. They first heard about Cleo seven months ago, and made a trip to the Caribbean country in November 2009 when they spent three days getting to know the toddler, filling out paperwork for the adoption and meeting with a judge.

Susan says she had the same feeling in the first moments with Cleo on that trip as she did upon first seeing her biological children, ages 4 and 6.

He’s a child of my heart,” Susan gushed on Thursday afternoon at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, the Matthysses immediately sought the assistance of their congressman, Pete Visclosky, to help in getting custody of Cleo. Susan said she was at the couple’s Crown Point home when she first heard of the quake.

“We were concerned right away,” she said, noting her husband had just returned home from his job as worship and arts director at Faith Church in Dyer. “We began praying immediately.”

The orphanage in Haiti where Cleo lived at the time posted a message on its Web site within an hour of the earthquake saying all the children had survived the tremor. According to Susan, the children and staff of the orphanage had to sleep outside the first night after the earthquake for fear of being hurt by aftershocks and unstable structures.

“There were angels protecting the orphanage,” she said. “We were praying for a miracle and we were extremely concerned.”

The couple was elated Wednesday evening when they received an e-mail telling them Cleo had received a visa and would be arriving in Miami on Thursday evening.

“I’m so excited, and exhausted,” Susan explained. “I’m also nervous.”

Nervous, she said, because she wants the adjustment to be a smooth one for Cleo to his new home in the U.S. with her husband and two children.

“I’m confident it will go OK,” Susan said, adding the couple’s church members are incredibly supportive of the adoption, as are their family and friends. “I’m getting Facebook messages from people from all over saying they are praying for us and supporting us.”

The plane carrying Cleo and other Haitian orphans is expected to arrive in Miami around 6 p.m., according to Susan, who said the couple will wait at the airport for the child to arrive. The pair’s other two children stayed home in Indiana with Susan’s parents. It is a time the Matthysses have been anticipating for quite a while.

The adoption, which is being handled through Bethany Christian Services, was originally expected to take a year or more to be finalized.

“My husband and I felt strongly that God’s plan for our family was to adopt,” Susan said. “We felt God led us to Haiti.”