Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Serendipty II

I received this e-mail this morning. I don't know Pat personally--she's the Internet friend of another Internet friend. There's a group of us that seem to have the same sense of humor (at least, Midas--who started this all--thinks so!) and we share jokes and stories.

Once in awhile, life gets serious behind the laughter. I will pray for Pat's son. I have no idea if the story that follows the request for prayer is true. It probably isn't. But consider it a modern parable. Jesus taught in parables because stories are easier for us to understand. For all our modernity and sophistication, we're not hardwired differently than the Jews of His time. We still learn best from parables...


This story was written by a doctor who worked in South Africa...

"One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite
of all we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a
crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as
we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator).

We also had no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator,
nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for
the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be
wrapped in.

Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back
shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst
(rubber perishes easily in tropical climates). "And it is our last hot water
bottle!" she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk so in
Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles.
They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

"All right," I said, "put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and
sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to
keep the baby warm."

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of
the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters
various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I
explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot
water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told
them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt
conciseness of our African children. "Please, God" she prayed, "send us a
water bottle. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please
send it this afternoon."

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, "And while
You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll
know You really love her?"

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly
say,"Amen". I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that
He can do everything, the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there?
The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a
parcel from homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time,
and I had never, ever received a parcel from home. Anyway, if anyone did send
me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school,
a message was sent that there was a car at my front door.

By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was
a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not
open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children.

Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the
paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting.

Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
>From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as
I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy
patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins
and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend. Then, as I put
my hand in again, I felt the.....could it really be? I grasped it and pulled it
out - yes, a brand-new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God
to send it; I had not truly believed that He could. Ruth was in the front row
of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, "If God has sent the bottle,
He must have sent the dolly too!"

Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small,
beautifully dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted!

Looking up at me, she asked: "Can I go over with you and give this dolly to
that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?"

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months. Packed up by my former
Sunday school class, whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to
send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a
dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing
prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it "that afternoon."

"Before they call, I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24)> This awesome prayer takes
less than a minute. When you receive this, say the prayer, that's all you have
to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want - but do send
it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost but
a lot of rewards.

Let's continue praying for one another Father, I ask you to bless my friends
reading this right now. I am asking You to minister to their spirit at this
very moment. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is
self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there
is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance,
and strength as they learn submission to Your leading. Where there is spiritual
stagnation, I ask You to renew them by revealing Your nearness, and by
drawing them into greater intimacy with You. Where there is fear, reveal Your love,
and release to them Your courage. Where there is a sin blocking them, reveal
it, and break its hold over my friend's life.

Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and
friends to support and encourage them. Give each of them discernment to recognize
the evil forces around them, and reveal to them the power they have in You to
defeat it. I ask you to do these things in Jesus' name."