Andy Wescott says he will never forget Super Bowl Sunday 2010. Not because the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts, earning their first-ever championship, but because his family of three became a family of four that day.
Eight-year-old Wislandie, an orphan from Haiti, flew to the U.S. on an Air Force transport on Feb. 7, becoming big sister to 4 1/2-year-old Alison and daughter to Beth and Andy, a pastor at the Free Christian Church on Elm Street.
In the two weeks since Wislandie arrived, the family has discovered her panache for throwing snow balls, "High School Musical" and playing board games. She trounced her new father the first time they played the game "Sorry!"
The Wescotts applied to adopt Wislandie one year ago. The already ineffective Haitian adoption process, which can take two or three years, was disrupted after the nation was devastated and paperwork scattered and buried by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake Jan. 12.
In the month that followed, the Wescotts clung to sporadic communication with Wislandie's orphanage as they navigated the ups and downs of government red tape, lawyers and extensive paperwork to bring her to the U.S.
"We had been pushing and pushing on this process for a while. We pushed as much as we could, and were just waiting," said Andy Wescott. "I'm content as a pastor to say it's a God thing. There were a lot of other factors, but I'm content to say that."
State Rep. Barry Finegold, State Sen. Sue Tucker and U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas and Sen. John Kerry helped the family navigate government departments and post-earthquake adoption procedures, he said.
"I don't think (Wislandie) would be here without them," Wescott said.
Wislandie's adoption process was accelerated by a state department "humanitarian parole" program, created for American families that can provide proper documentation showing an adoption was already in progress before the earthquake, said Wescott.
Free Christian Church, where the Wescotts have been members for 11 years, sponsors Wislandie's orphanage, Hope for the Children of Haiti. It was during a church service trip to the orphanage last February that Andy Wescott met Wislandie, and knew instantly she was meant to be adopted by his family.
Beth Wescott, who wasn't on the February trip, journeyed to Haiti in July and "bonded terrifically with Wislandie," said Andy Wescott. From there, the Wescotts partnered with a lawyer and credentialed adoption agency.
The Wescotts live in North Andover; Beth works for Pfizer in Andover and Andy is a campus pastor and leads the adult discipleship and small groups at Free Christian.