This story, though told in my words, is not mine. It comes from Faithful, an African missionary woman, who shared it with many groups that she spoke with last week. Though all the description is mine, parts of the dialogue are taken from her testimony.
The aisle, once made up of smooth, symmetrical terra cotta tiles, now consisted of mere fragments. Its color had long ago faded from too many bodies, and too many feet having crossed its surface. Like every major hospital in the country, it bulged with people. Weary-eyed, drawn-lipped, leather-skinned people. Some, patients. Others, visitors. Toddlers dressed only in simple clothing or wearing thin cotton gowns dodged between the legs of elders. For their misplaced energy, they caught a half-hearted smack or scolding, or were left to run the length of the aisle if no one noticed them. Long-sleeved shirts and thin, colorful blankets covered arms and hung at the wrists of many.Some torn and other ill-fitting pants cropped displayed ankles. Women wore layered, colorful dresses. Feet shuffled in flip-flops or nothing at all. People lay, sat, stood—all waiting--for or in various stages of care. Family members helped comfort and care for the sick. A light antiseptic smell wafted through the wing from time to time. It mingled with the sweat of so many bodies in such little space. Once in awhile, a brisk nurse would sweep through the ward, and call someone’s name or shout to a patient inside an open door.
The woman stood alone, as if an island to herself, though she, too, made up the crowd inside the hall. She had been in this environment many times, and as such, was accustomed to the long waits. Thin and able-bodied, her kind eyes focused on the bundle she held in her arms. She rocked it and murmured in her dialect, willing the sickly baby to breathe. “Come on, baby, come on...” She waited, and rocked, and waited some more. Looking down, she noticed the skin that surrounded the tiny lips of her precious charge had whitened. This cannot be something good. This baby cannot die! She began to pace, and pray. Her voice grew more agitated as she willed life into this limp form. I cannot lose another one. No! Not one more of my orphans!
She reached out to the ward-weary pediatrician who appeared in the hallway, “Doctor, you must look to this baby!” As she explained about the baby's condition, the doctor peered into the infant’s tiny face. From the doctor’s shuttered eyelids and the set of his lips, she understood what the doctor now knew. Am I going to cry? I am going to cry! And then what am I going to say? As Faithful was processing her thoughts the doctor reached for the baby, “Give her to me. It's too late. She is dead.”
“No! I will not give her to you! I have lost seventeen babies this year. I am not going to lose the eighteenth!”
She began to pray as she paced back and forth the length of the hall. She begged God. She poured herself into this petition for one precious life.”
I don’t know how much time passed. At a certain point, the doctor again instructed her to hand the baby over to him.
“No,” Faithful buried her face in the blanket, “I will go with you but I will not give this baby up!” Her voice brooked no refute; she stubbornly refused to give up her charge. The doctor sighed and began to write the time of death on the certificate. Faithful continued her petition, “You are life itself, Abba Father. I praise you for the love you have for me -- and for this baby. You are my Jehova Jairah! I cannot endure to lose even one more baby. Please give this child life again..”
The doctor took the baby from her. He held the baby in one arm and the death certificate in the other. His startled voice cut through to her weeping, “Change your baby’s diaper, please.”
Slowly she raised her tear-stained face, as understanding flooded through to her anxious mind. Only live babies diapers needed to be changed! This baby was alive! She felt the infant's diaper and found it wet! This baby is a miracle given back to me by my Father who has heard my cry.
The young woman took the orphan into her arms and pressed her face against the one in the blanket. She carried the baby out of the doctor’s office, and called out to the crowd still waiting in long corridor, “This baby’s diaper needs to be changed!” Faithful then went on to proclaim the miracle her heavenly father granted her as she prayed..
Not one doubted God’s miracle of the baby whose diaper suddenly needed changing in that hospital last summer – neither doctor nor nurse, patient nor guest. The once-weary multitude all bore witness to this miracle.