I want to share a story with you that encouraged me at a very low part of my day yesterday. It’s long, but it’s worth it! Sometimes we need to be reminded that God knows everything that’s going on. He knows our needs and our burdens. He knows exactly how He’s going to solve our problems and He’s working on the solutions even before we know to pray about them. Sometimes it takes the faith of a child to remind us of our All Knowing, All Powerful and Faithful God…
THE HOT WATER BOTTLE
A True Story By Helen Roseveare, Missionary to Africa, re-told by Kathy Bright
On a dark night in Central Africa, not so very long ago, Dr. Helen Roseveare worked hard to help a mother give birth to her premature baby. The baby was finally born, but sadly, its mother didn’t survive the night. She left behind her weak and tiny baby as well as an inconsolable 2 year-old daughter.
Dr. Helen knew that the chances of survival for the little baby were small. They had no electricity, no incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although the equator is known for it’s warm temperatures, many are surprised to learn that the nights can be chilly and the drafts can prove deadly for premature babies.
The new little orphan was placed in a special box and wrapped in cotton wool. The fire was stoked to warm the room and water was heated for their most critical life saving device, a hot water bottle. Carefully the student mid-wife poured the warm water into the bottle. But the equator is a harsh environment for rubber and all too quickly it falls apart in the elements. The mid-wife cried out in frustration as the last of the hot water bottle burst in her hands.
Dr. Helen says that “as in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.” She told her interns to put the baby as close to the fire as possible and to sleep between the door and the baby in order to block the cold drafts.
The next morning the baby was still alive, but not out of danger. They desperately needed a hot water bottle.
Dr. Helen would often pray with some of the children who lived at the orphanage. This day was no exception. At noon she gathered the children and shared some of the prayer needs. Ten-year-old Ruth listened intently as Dr. Helen told them about the premature baby and the battle to keep it alive and warm without a hot water bottle. Ruth’s heart hurt for the two-year-old sister who had been crying since her mommy died. When they bowed their heads to pray, Ruth knew just what to ask for.
Dr. Helen said that Ruth’s prayer was in the usual blunt consciousness of the African children and it caught her totally off guard. “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll do no good tomorrow, God, the baby’ll be dead; so, please send it this afternoon.” While Dr. Helen was still recovering from the audacity of Ruth’s prayer, the young girl 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?”
What was Dr. Helen to do? If she said, “Amen” would she be a hypocrite? She truly did not believe that God could answer Ruth’s prayer. She says that, although she knew that God could do anything (the Bible told her so) she admits that when the rubber meets the road (no pun intended!) there were limits…weren’t there?
The reality was, in order to answer Ruth’s prayer, God would have had to have someone send a package from the homeland to Africa. In the four years Dr. Helen had been in Africa, she’d never received one package from home… not one. And if, by some miracle someone did send a package, who would think to put a hot water bottle in it? No one would dream of sending a hot water bottle to the equator!
Have you guessed what happened? If you believe in an All Powerful and All Knowing God who answers prayers, you have! In the middle of the afternoon Dr. Helen received a message that a package had arrived at her home. Gathering the children she went to find a large, 22-pound box on her veranda!
It was like Christmas morning as thirty to forty pairs of eyes watched her open the lid and lift out the contents. Brightly colored, knitted jerseys were handed out to their delight. Knitted bandages for leprosy patients and a box of raisins and sultanas came next. Dr. Helen reached in the box again. She felt it before she saw it. Her hands wrapped around the unmistakable texture of rubber! When she pulled it from the box she cried, “A brand new rubber, hot water bottle!”
Dr. Helen may not have prayed for it, or believed that God would send it, but Ruth did! The young girl ran to the package and cried out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” Sure enough, at the bottom of the box Ruth found a small, beautifully dressed dolly. Her dark eyes sparkled with excitement. “Can I go over with you, Mummy,” she asked Dr. Helen, “and give this dolly to that little girl, so she’ll know that Jesus really loves her?” How could she say no?
Five months before Ruth prayed for a hot water bottle and a dolly, Dr. Helens former Sunday school leader was prompted by God to have the class send her a package. In that package they specifically obeyed His leading and included a hot water bottle and a dolly for one of the African girls. As Dr. Helen says, “five months earlier in answer to the believing prayer of a ten year-old to bring it “that afternoon!”
Isaiah 65:24 says:
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.